Sam Claflin, Timothy Spall and Hugh Bonneville star in the gritty crime thriller THE CORRUPTED. Beginning in 2002, Clifford Cullen (Spall) and Anthony Hammond (Bonneville) seize the opportunity for a land grab in London after Britain announces they will host the Olympics in a decade. Cullen forces a landowner, who has two young sons, to sign over his property --- then shoots him in the head.
Fast forward to the release from prison of Liam McDonagh (Claflin), after serving nine years of a 15-year sentence for armed robbery. All Liam wants is to get a real job and reconnect with his 10-year-old son, Archie and Archie’s mum, Grace (Naomi Ackie). But his younger brother, Sean (Joe Claflin), has fallen in with Cullen, who unbeknownst to either of them, killed their father. When three million pounds of drug money goes missing, all hell breaks loose --- and we learn just how deep the corruption goes.
THE CORRUPTED gets off to a slow start immediately following Liam’s release from incarceration. He was once a prize fighter, so Cullen arranges a charity bout for him. But other than demonstrating that Liam can defend himself and throw a mean left hook, there’s no other point to this diversion.
Getting dragged into Sean’s business against his will catches Liam up in a cat-and-mouse game between them and Cullen, his henchmen, Hammond and half the police force. By the time THE CORRUPTED is finished, you’re left wondering if anyone is honest --- and safe.
It’s always fun to watch accomplished actors play really heinous characters. Spall and Bonneville are especially captivating as these two vile men. Bonneville has one particularly jarring scene, which I was slightly anticipating, but when it actually happens, it’s shocking nonetheless. And Spall makes the pathological Cullen deliciously evil.
I must give a shout out to Lorraine Ashbourne who plays Cullen’s wife, Pam. She’s been a character actor for years in British productions of all sorts, and here she’s brilliantly cagy as the protective wife who is all-too familiar with her husband’s machinations. It’s a small role which she ultimately brings to life with panache.
We’ve seen the plotline of THE CORRUPTED before, but it’s the portrayals of Spall, Bonneville and Claflin which elevate this movie. The filming of London as a central character by Director of Photography Richard Mott also adds to the realism of THE CORRUPTED. It’s a better than decent thriller that you can catch on your telly.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
The knock on THE CORRUPTED in some critical circles is that it doesn’t break any new ground in terms of the crime genre. That may be true, to an extent, but it is a well-written, well-acted and hard-hitting piece of material accompanied by an excellent musical score. And it features Timothy Spall and Hugh Bonneville in key roles as some of the villains indicated in the movie’s title.
Spall is considered a treasure in the UK, and if you’re a fan of his work, well --- you haven’t seen him like this before. His Clifford Cullen is a nasty, conniving, greedy individual without a conscience who shows no remorse when getting rid of anyone who gets in his way. Bonneville’s character, Anthony Hammond, is more subtle, but it’s also an interesting departure from his “Downton Abbey” persona of Robert Crawley.
We both found THE CORRUPTED entertaining with no wasted dialogue. In the lead role, Sam Claflin turns in a superb performance as Liam McDonagh. He believes his father committed suicide, but it’s apparent he will eventually learn the truth and react accordingly. His character is a prison parolee and a consummate prize fighter, so he can handle himself in any situation. He’s also a loving father who wants to reconcile with his estranged partner, Grace (Naomi Ackie), and their young son Archie.
Like any good thriller, THE CORRUPTED keeps us guessing as to who can be trusted and who is corrupt. This includes most of the London police force hierarchy. Director Ron Scalpello, writer Nick Moorcroft and composer Andrew Kawczynski have collaborated on a nifty crime drama worthy of your time. The film was released on a limited basis January 10th in the U.S. and will likely be available on Amazon Prime.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!