smart car pranks

San Francisco’s Finest were out in force in their Mission District last night, after a rash of Smart Car-tipping occurred in the neighboring Bernal Heights and Portola districts to the south Sunday night by what some witnesses described as a masked gang. Speculation on the mystery rages from the nefarious (class war, or the anti-tech sentiment that has led to a number of confrontations with Google Glass-wearers and shuttle riders), to meteorological/mundane (San Francisco is in the midst of a spate of inordinately warm weather, and a lot of kids are on Spring Break). The Smart Car business is not new, and incidents have been documented in Toronto, Indianapolis and Vancouver (during the riots after the Canucks’ Stanley Cup loss). I also seem to recall seeing this happening in Greece about 10 years ago, when the light, little vehicles were already prevalent in Europe.

A film available on FilmOn’s free VoD service that pre-dates the Smart Car craze and its ‘backlash,’ but certainly conveys plenty of anticipatory ennui and darkly clever humor, is Stephen Frear’s second feature Bloody Kids (1980). Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen, this year’s Oscar nominee Philomena) paints a grimly vibrant portrait of the early Thatcher Government’s affect on London’s East End, with classic location sequences shot in Essex, Southend-on-Sea, and the Canvey Island that inspired Charles Dickens and spawned Wilko Johnson’s Dr. Feelgood.

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The script, by the Emmy award-winning Stephen Poliakoff, centers around the misadventures of two, young adolescent pranksters who graduate to a higher level over the course of a film set in a public environment of schools, hospitals, police stations, football matches, discos, double-decker buses and shopping malls that showcase no positive guidance from their elders, mostly just ever-present, but glitchy surveillance. The film shows some similarities to its contemporary release Quadrophenia (1979) and indeed a key role is played by Gary Holton (Breaking Glass, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet), who also had a small part in that film set during the 60’s Brighton battles between Mods and Rockers.

Somewhat resembling a young Ron Wood, Holton was the former lead singer for the group Heavy Metal Kids, and apparently turned down consideration from AC/DC to replace the deceased Bon Scott (Holton himself would die of morphine and alcohol poisoning in 1985).

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In Bloody Kids, Holton shines as a disillusioned raconteur who takes one of the young pranksters under his wing, Artful Dodger-style. The film in general features top-notch acting, and a great introduction to the British performers of the time, some more possibly known to U.S. audiences would be Brenda Fricker (future 1990 Oscar winner for My Left Foot), P. H. Moriarty (Scum, The Long Good Friday, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and Mel Smith (Not the Nine O’Clock News, The Princess Bride, director of The Tall Guy and Bean).

George Fenton (Gandhi, The Fisher King, Shadowlands) contributes a masterful score, with interesting, ironic spaghetti western touches. Frears shows the already flowering promise that would completely burst forth in the mid-80s with The Hit, and his work with Daniel Day Lewis, My Beautiful Launderette.

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