Dir: Babak Anvari. Cast: George MacKay, Hugh Bonneville, Kelly Macdonald, Varada Sethu, Antonio Aakeel, Percelle Ascott. 15, 110 minutes.
We’re supposed to have as much fun I came over, the latest glossy thriller from Netflix? It has Paddington‘s own Hugh Bonneville in the role of a duplicitous wretch seen flushing ashes down his toilet with the craggy expression of a man who’s just been served subpar wine. A few scenes earlier, we catch him yelling at the TV while watching an episode of the animated meta-comedy of all things Rick and Morty.
His character, Hector Blake, popularly known as “St. Blake” is a former High Court judge known for regularly accepting inquiries on behalf of refugees. He insists to non-believers that “if you knew anything about my career, you would know that I am anything but racist”. So does the line “I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could” in Jordan Peele’s Go out, it should be read as an immediate warning sign. But unlike Peele’s modern classic I came over can never tell for sure if it leads to a punch line or a lecture. The stated intention of recapturing the high-voltage thrills of Hitchcock’s work – or the paranoid thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s – never materializes either. Instead we find a well-intentioned work struggling to find its voice.
Hector becomes the target of a modern-day Robin Hood, Toby Nealey (George MacKay), who wields a spray can instead of a bow and arrow. His trick is to break into the homes of the rich and corrupt and leave graffiti messages on their walls painted with Farrow and Ball – a reminder that their ivory towers will always be scalable. Toby’s accomplice Jay Agassi (Percelle Ascott) is expecting a baby with his girlfriend Naz (Varada Sethu). He wants out. Not everyone can be like Toby, who still counts on his weary but loyal mother, Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald), to clean up his kitchen mess while he pursues his idealistic quests for revenge. All Lizzie really wants to do is pour her tall glass of wine and watch The Great British Bake Off without her son admonishing her to indulge in a supposedly low-key culture.
So Toby takes on Hector as a solo project, convinced that the judge’s squeaky-clean reputation is just a PR spider, one hiding a long family history of imperialist sentiments. He finds more than he expected (or prepared): a door hidden behind a bookshelf with the shadows of footsteps on the other side, revealing that Hector has much more to hide than conservative ideology.
On paper, I came over has all the requisites: a heist thriller of sorts, set in the realities of class and race in modern Britain, where a corrupt system means everyone ignores the shuffling and muffled screams from the High Court judge’s cellar. And the film’s director, Babak Anvari, certainly has form when it comes to lacing genre fare with a keen social consciousness – his excellent debut, the Persian-language horror under the shadow (2016), examined the trauma in a war-torn, post-revolutionary Iran through the lens of a classic jinn tale.
Bonneville, whose roles in notting hill and Downton Abbey Having him somehow cast in the role of the hapless sucker certainly plays against the type. But aside from a few borderline parodic images of the upper-class threat – his weapon of choice is a cricket bat – his performance here feels far too measured to really challenge those prejudices.
It’s something of a fatal blow for I came over, although the screenplay by Anvari and Namsi Khan otherwise doesn’t find its stylistic catch. It may be the rare thriller that doesn’t actively marginalize its female characters, but neither Macdonald nor Sethu pushes past the “concerned lover” frontier. And the film is distractingly scattered in its attempt to capture the full breadth and breadth of its social commentary. In fact, it’s so replete with tangentially related ideas that even its timeline is confusing and difficult to follow, signaled only by the erratic changes in McKay’s hair color. I for one spent so much of it I came over trying to keep up with what was going on that I left the film a little clueless as to what exactly I was supposed to be feeling.
I Came By is in cinemas from August 19th and will be streaming on Netflix UK from August 31st
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/i-came-by-movie-netflix-review-b2146809.html I Came By Movie Review: An ‘evil Hugh Bonneville’ movie that doesn’t know if it’s comedy or lecture