Justin Edgar / UK / 2016 / 83 mins
Part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival
After a botched drug raid, Marley (Frederick Schmidt) is sent to prison for six years for the accidental murder of a young mother (Ana Ularu). During his time inside, he’s racked with guilt for his crime and plagued by the ghost of his victim. Once released, he must track down her daughter and face up to his old mob boss Brendan (John Hannah) in his quest for some semblance of redemption.
From start to finish, this is a gritty, darkly conceived urban thriller, which pulls no punches and doesn’t squirm away from brutal violence nor uncomfortable themes. Schmidt is superb as the brooding convict desperate to make amends for his terrible crime, and Ularu is equally imposing as the ever-present reminder of his bloody deed. It’s a shame that Hannah’s performance is compromised by his ropey Irish accent, but the cast are strong enough across the board to paper over such craics (apologies).
The plot is capable of such sinister and perverse twists and turns that you’re unlikely to see them coming, even if you do manage to spot the woods while missing the trees. Dialogue is at a premium, with the director preferring to rely on atmospheric silences and smouldering stares to augment the sense of dread throughout. The action rumbles on at a slow but irresistible pace, like some great boulder crashing down a mountainside towards its final resting place, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
Normally more at home in comedy, Edgar has branched out into new territory with this bleak vision of a murderer’s quest for redemption. The Marker is definitely not for the faint-hearted nor those with a penchant for Hollywood gloss, and certainly shouldn’t be served up as light entertainment on a Sunday evening. Nonetheless, it’s a well-crafted noir thriller that satisfies the sadistic cinema goer with its darkly uncompromising take on the genre.