On the basis of Blue Story, Paramount awarded British writer/director Rapman a chance to remake a hot property, A Prophet. That’s quite a prospect, given that Jacques Audiard’s jail and gangsters tale has been one of the most notable entries in the cycle over the last decade. Blue Story has had a number of difficulties to overcome, notably release date changes in the US (March 20th 2020 is the latest) and a truncated release in the UK that muted a potentially strong box-office performance.
Blue Story is a considerably superior product to Noel Clarke’s lamentable wannabe Kidulthood trilogy, and also looks good in comparison with Saul Dibb’s benchmark Bulletboy; this is a modern gangland culture film without Scorsese’s nostalgic touch, based around the on-going postcode wars. Two friends Marco (Michael Ward) and Timmy (Stephen Odubola) find their friends and families have to take a side in the turf-wars, but their best efforts can’t preserve them from the on-going cycle of violence.
Showcase Cinemas in the UK pulled the film after 25 separate incidents were reported at 15 screenings, but that ban was later revoked; given that the film steps nimbly away from issues of glamorisation, it’s hard to see why the film-makers should pay a penalty. Those growing up in Peckham and Deptford, the areas described here, probably have enough problems to be going on with without being demonised in the media; perhaps the white-heat anger of Blue Story will be best appreciated as a home-entertainment event, but losing the opportunity to be a community event is detrimental to this kind of hearthelt production.
Rapman narrates the story here, and while his commentary removes much of the nuance from his film, it also makes sure the message lands. Britain, or at least the inner cities, faces a real challenge through the gentrification and ghetto-isation of their inhabitants, and Blue Story’s slick production marks a rare departure by the BBC into tricky real-world issues. Ward is a stand-out in a uniformly strong cast, and while such grim realities might put some viewers off, Blue Story is to be commended for standing up for the dispossessed and telling things as they are, circa 2020.