Director – Reggie Yates – 2021 – UK – Cert. – 80m
Party like it’s 1999! Three 18-year-old, childhood friends from London attempt to see in the new millennium in style – on BFI Player as a Subscription Exclusive from Thursday, April 13th
They’re called pirates because in this year, 1999, they’ve made it onto the air in London pirate radio, DJ-ing and MC-ing from their flat as the ICC, the Ice Cold Crew. Well, two of them, Two Tonne (Jordan Peters) and Kidda (Redda Elazouar), have. Third member Cappo (Elliot Edusah), just back from university, never really felt he contributed much to the ICC even though he was their manager, so he’s been rehearsing his one-line speech to tell the guys he’s leaving the crew.
However, when he drops in on Two Tonne at the latter’s glue factory job, before he can say his piece, his friend spots Sophie (Kassius Nelson), the girl with whom Two Tonne is smitten and with whom he’d like to be at midnight, and the conversation goes in a whole other direction. The lads concoct a plan to get into the best party of the night, the Y2K, but to do that, they need to get tickets at this last minute.
If Two Tonne wants to get the girl and Cappa wants to get out of the ICC, Kidda lacks motivation beyond winging it, coming up with hare-brained ideas to solve immediate problems the trio encounter and then screwing those plans up. Not worrying about this character deficiency in the script, the three set out across London in Cappa’s little yellow Peugeot to create a night to remember. But lots of characters they come across conspire to thwart their doing so.
While the three friends, first seen in a pop video-styled opening sequence where they show off dance moves against a background of concentric circles, are likeable enough both on their own and interacting, their characters are largely upstaged by some of the people they encounter on their travels – Two Tonne’s love interest Sophie, his former girlfriend Kelly (Rebekah Murrell) who turns up at points in the plot where she could get them access to the party but instead gives him a hard time and Caribbean food shop employee Princess (Shiloh Coke) who takes a dim view of anyone who doesn’t enter her fast food shop without knowing immediately what they want to order. Other memorable walk on walk off parts include Kidda’s intimidating Uncle Ibbs (Youseff Kerkour) who’s also his boss and Megaman (Aaron Shosanya) whose jacket Two Tonne once accidentally set on fire.
This quirky, winsome and lively low budget, London romp also pays homage to the garage music scene of the period, with many faces familiar from that culture appearing on the screen. Incredibly, the shoot was interrupted by the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown; to his credit, first time writer-director Yates somehow managed to pick up the shoot where he left off as soon as he was able, without any apparent damage to the final film. With its three central characters driving around London in a little yellow car trying to make things happen, the resultant movie is quite unlike anything else out there.
Pirates is on BFI Player as a Subscription Exclusive from Thursday, April 13th following its release in cinemas in the UK on Friday, November 26th 2022.