Movie Review: Cleek (2017)

Cleek Artwork

The first thing that really struck me about the film was the incredible cinematography, the opening shots are amazing, the drone shots in particular are really impressive but not drawn out, I have noticed a trend in some indie movies where to pad the run time they will fill it full of long shots, and scenery b-roll but this felt very stylistically relevant and really set the tone.

Now I think/hope this review will be an improvement on movie reviews I have written before, they tended to be very chronological, meaning I would write up notes as I watched, and the subsequent review would end up being thoughts on specific scenes as I watched the entire movie, however that felt clunky, meant the reviews were a bit on the long side and just weren’t as good as they could have been. So having learnt my lesson I intend for this, and future reviews to be more of an overview because not only does this cut down on potential spoilers, but it also feels less like we are watching the movie together and I’m commenting on it as it happens.

Something else that really struck me, even early on was the sound composing and editing, it’s rich and evocative. It works really well, and doesn’t feel cheap either. 

Now I kinda just promised in the above section I would try and stick to broad feelings, but early on, the first couple of minutes there is a really cool scene, where it cuts from the main character to a bus approaching, it’s visually really interesting, and having been involved in some shoots before I imagine it might have been tricky to accomplish.

Outside of shows like Still Game, River City and Scot Squad it’s rare to hear Scottish people, I mean you’ll get occasionally characters such as Amy Pond played by Inverness born actress Karen Gillan or Malcolm Tucker played by Glaswegian Peter Capaldi but for the most part we are far more used American or English people on our screens that Scots, and that’s a shame because it’s good to see and most important hear Scottish people, productions like this help to make that the norm. Additionally it’s good to hear a breadth of accents on the show, not just one, it let’s you know that Scotland is a diverse population in and of itself with a range of accents.

It doesn’t hesitate to start off with something heavy…an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting to be specific, and all within the first ten minutes. This not only sets off a distinct tone to the movie, but also advances the plot and introduces characters in an organic way. This pacing is a consistent aspect of the entire movie, you aren’t spoonfed his manifesto nor are you given things in dribs and drabs, instead you are given things in an expedient, and straightforward manner, that both advances the plot and is engaging as a viewer. 

Again, not aiming to focus on individual scenes, but some are just really worth mentioning, the painting scene early on it’s really interesting, incredible camera work, the music is fantastic, it all goes to building a quirky and offbeat scene that really works to not only develop the character but also it’s just all around an engaging and yet deceptively simple.

I like the main character as well, the actor has a really sweet face though, like I’d struggle to imagine him doing anything bad, which *spoilers* I suppose would be beneficial to any unsavoury things he may get up to during the film. I do feel like he is taking some cues from characters like Hannibal Lecter or Dexter, very superficial charm and sophistication, but with an underlying dark thread. I think that’s why we see him paint/draw people as animals in people’s clothes, it shows his true feelings towards other people, who are little more than beasts to him.

I should mention, I am a huge fan of the crime genre, thrillers and slashers in particular, now it’s never about the gore for me, although a little bit doesn’t hurt, instead I like discovering the underlying reasons why, the twists and turns, the investigation and often, the discovery. I find all of that riveting, and while it’s hard to be genuinely unique, Cleek does a great job of building a smart, believable narrative. Also maybe I’m reading into it a little but I feel like the first on screen kill was a little bit of a nod to the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960s classic ‘Psycho’. Also while I’m talking about the murder aspect, and again beware of *Spoilers* I’ve always liked the concept of disposing of the bodies by having them eating by pigs, it’s a common enough staple of crime fiction and yet it’s such a gruesome and effective means of getting rid of them. 

Something that occurred to me later in the film, Jacob is an excellent example of the compulsion that was discussed earlier in the movie during the AA meeting, when he fails to kill the girl on the street around 30 odd minutes into the film he says something to the effect of “You have no idea what I have to do” and this really struck me, he HAS to do this, and it makes him attending AA make more sense, because he’s not just scouting for potential victims, but he’s also trying sincerely to curb his compulsion, his own addiction. Much like Dexter, he both embraces and is controlled by his compulsion, he is a victim of it, and is capable of the introspection to understand that he shouldn’t and can’t keep doing this, but is either incapable or unwilling to stop. This is most clear when we see his struggle regarding Norma, he very clearly cares about her, at least as much as his condition will allow but he almost cannot help himself.

Overall this film is well plotted, interesting and is the right blend of style and substance, it’s a strong and talented cast, particular highlights being Simon Weir (playing Sam McBride), Sharon Osdin (playing Norma Bagwell), Samantha Foley (playing Lucy Walker) and Mark Barrett (playing Jacob Cleek) although that being said the entire cast did well, and provided a truly excellent viewing experience. I talked about the production values, and for an indie film these are truly a cut above, the camera work, the editing, the sound production are all excellent as well. So if you want a fantastic Scottish film then look no further than Cleek. I give it a 4/5 and strongly suggest you check it out on Amazon Prime today.


First Published on:

Off the Record is and always will be a free platform, but if you like what we do here and want to contribute to the production of future content then you can do so by donating to our PayPal or Ko-Fi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s