Convenience (2015) starts with a bang as half naked Shaan (Adeel Akhtar) runs from the Russian mafia down a wet street as music pounds in the background, bringing to mind the kinetic energy of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. It won’t be the last influence to be cited in Keri Collins’ spritely, entertaining if somewhat shop worn British indie-comedy. Shaan, it turns out, has inadvertently run up a huge bill at a local strip club and leads his pursuers back to his flat.
There, he and his flatmate Ajay (producer and BAFTA ‘Breakthrough Brit’ Ray Panthaki) are faced with the impossible task of raising over eight thousand pounds in 24 hours. Their solution is to try and rob the local 24 hour mini-market petrol station. Why? How? What? It doesn’t matter. This is a cheap and cheerful comic universe that feels no need for the delightful rules of credibility or narrative logic. The hapless pair of robbers have little propensity for crime and know nought of time safes or hostage situations.
An unlucky customer (James Bradshaw) whose just popped in to buy eight bottles of diet coke (because he’s trying to lose weight), and the jobs-worth manager (John Norton) find themselves duct-taped to chairs in the backroom while Ajay and Shaan pose as staff members and wait for the safe to open at 6 am. Back form an extended cigarette break, Levi (Vicky McClure, Lol from This Is England) initially mistakes them for trainees and sets about inadvertently abetting the subterfuge, only to later become suspicious.
The pace slackens as the small hours stretch through a long night, but fortunately, to keep everything ticking over, the store is visited by a steady drip of strange characters and cameos from a pair of stoned students (Tony Way and Tom Bell) eager for some goose, to Anthony Head’s suicidal business man, by way of Verne Troyer’s Stetson-toting dwarf. Here the influence is more Clerks than Dog Day Afternoon. In fact, despite the guns and the supposed threat of violence, there is no tension or sense of danger. Everything is too good-natured and the evolving relationship between Levi, Ajay and Shaan has a genuine warmth. However, Simon Fantauzzo’s screenplay too frequently resorts to old comedy chestnuts – the sweary old woman and Troyer’s cameo being two particular offenders – leaving his talented cast to do their best with some pretty skinny material which is well past its sell-by date.
That said Akhtar creates in Shaan a pleasantly funny comic character, a kind of gormless holy fool, without a bad bone in his body despite Ajay assuring everyone he’s the ‘mad dog’ of the pair. And McClure is sharply defined, as the gum-chewing cashier who should really be doing something… anything else. Panthaki brings to Ajay a hint of panicked psychosis, but as with Shaan, its difficult to believe he is doing what he is doing for any other motive other than because the scenario of the film demands it. As we head for the dénouement, the influences become increasingly distracting and the whole affair requires some fairly blatant deux ex machinas to nudge the characters in the right direction and what began as quirky ends as plain daft.