Break (2020)

Director: Michael Elkin
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Certification: 15
Starring: Sam Gittins, David Yip, Luke Mably, Terri Dwyer, Jamie Foreman, Rutger Hauer, Sophie Stevens, Adam Deacon, Scott Peden, Anna Danshina, Charlie Wernham, Frankie Fairbrass, Ethan Hazard, Daniel Hough, Max Fincham, David Cheung

A gifted Snooker player, Spencer Pryde (Sam Gittins) has been squandering his talents on petty crime, and found himself in debt to a vicious drug-dealer. He is presented with an opportunity by a stranger named Qiang (David Yip), a former champion turned coach, intent on turning Spencer into a pro.

Acting as writer and director, Michael Elkin makes his feature film debut in a non-acting capacity. What he's made certainly seems familiar, as we follow an inner-city kid being taught to hone his talent into something more gentlemanly, for the hopes of a better life. It feels like the next adaptation of Pygmalion, while bringing to mind 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service, and adding it's own message of optimism.

We follow Spencer, our main character who isn't feeling good about his life. He's kept himself from doing what he loves, as the idea of failing at it scares him. As a result, he's given up on his dreams, and has found himself stuck selling drugs. The inner demons of this character are very well captured, thanks to the performance by Sam Gittins. We see how reluctant the character is to talk through his feelings, despite holding regrets over not helping save his friend, a victim of knife crime.We see that Spencer is drowning in a sea of rage, built up from where his life has taken him, and the resentment he harbours for his father.

Past disappointments have made Spencer feel abandoned, and fuelled his troubled relationship with Terry, his dad. Although, Terry is trying to make up for it, and you feel his sincerity in Luke Mably's performance. He's aware it will take time before Spencer forgives him, but is willing to reach out wherever possible, no matter how many pushbacks it takes to get there. Despite their fractured past, Terry believes in his son, and does whatever he can to help him achieve his potential. This includes introducing his son to Qiang, the Snooker coach pleasantly played by David Yip.

Helping out our lead is Shelly, a gifted Snooker player who's portrayed by Sophie Stevens. Her characters acts as a love interest to Spencer, and the lovely chemistry makes it easy to buy into their blossoming romance. Stevens imbues the role with such charm, which makes it a shame her role feels limited to propping up the man she falls for. We do get hints of Shelly as a person in her own right, such as hints at her past, but one wishes there was more.

Also key to the film is Ray, a bar owner with a notorious past. This was notably the last movie Rutger Hauer filmed before his passing, and even in his final role, he's a bright spark the film is all the better to have. He sells the terror synonymous with Ray's legend, while having a warmth to him, willing to help out where he can. It's moments like these which remind us what's missed from Hauer's passing.

If I had an issue, it'd be the amount of story threads which populate the film. From the incarceration of a friend, to a bullying story, and the resurgance of Adam Deacon's villainous figure, it feels like there's too many balls in the air throughout the runtime. In spite of this, Michael Elkin pays off a number of them very well, and they help strengthen the idea that our experiences can define us, or unfortunately destroy us.

He also shows potential as a director, with a highlight occurring later on, during a pivotal game. The scene drowns out Spencer's surroundings, getting into his headspace, as though he's playing just for himself, and his love of the game. It's a wonderful moment which plays out in such a low-key way. It also gets to the heart of this films hopeful idea, that it's never too late to fulfil your potential, and become the best version of yourself.