There’s no place like home. So hopes Chris (Daniel Mays) as he returns to London after four years away to find his best friend Shifty (Riz Ahmed) dealing hard drugs while his own reputation lies in tatters after the events that occurred just before his hasty departure.
As Shifty carries out his daily duties, visiting local customers and showing Chris how he’s moved up in the world, local supplier Glen (Jason Flemyng) finally loses patience with Shifty and sets events in motion which will cause Chris to wonder if he should ever have come back.
Writer-director Eran Creevy has faithfully recreated the feel of a neighbourhood slowly dying on its backside, left to its own devices by the authorities who have better things to do.
The breakdown of normal society is perhaps at its most stark in one memorable scene, as Shifty’s complex role of of dealer, friend and protector to one lonely client, Valerie (Francesca Annis), is displayed. While this threatens to portray the drug dealer in too good a light, the payoff shows that we’re not being made to feel too much sympathy towards the man.
Daniel Mays continues to show he’s one of the UK’s brightest talents, Chris’s despair at Shifty’s new job both funny and affecting. Riz Ahmed captures the swagger of Shifty if not always what’s going on beneath the surface of the character.
Jason Flemyng’s Glen may veer too close to sweaty-beardy-movie-hardman, but he’s still a menacing figure, particularly towards the end of the film, when it gets unexpectedly tricksy in its storytelling.
Shifty is a fun, fast-paced romp through the underbelly of Britain which keeps some cracking ideas close to its chest right until the final moments.
Shifty is on limited release from Friday 24 April