Thank God for Debbie Isitt. Just as it was looking like every young British film-maker had leapt on the tediously laddish Lock, Stock bandwagon, along she comes with a deliciously vicious black comedy that restores your faith in homegrown cinema.
Fresh, energetic and informed by a bright intelligence and a sick wit, Isitt's debut feature gleefully peels away the apparently cosy veneer of cul-de-sac life to reveal the anger, anxiety, jealousy and frustration festering away underneath. Margaret Thatcher claimed there was no such thing as society, but Isitt appears to be saying that little has changed under Tony Blair's wobbly helmsmanship.
This might sound heavygoing, but Isitt generally makes her points with a light touch. She employs a mock-doc style that lends the action immediacy and edge, while her use of split-screen highlights the rising tension between the couples, heightening the excitement of a road race between Ricky Tomlinson and Phil Daniels.
Isitt's willingness to allow her actors to improvise makes the men's face-to-face confrontations edgy and unpredictable, particularly during a horribly real back-garden brawl. Tomlinson, as you might expect, is excellent. He's able to humanise his interfering, narrow-minded Little Englander, rendering him as pitiable as he is monstrous. On the other side of the fence, Daniels invests his vulgar neighbour with the sort of arrogant swagger that would annoy the most understanding person.
All concerned, in fact, pull their weight in this low-budget winner. Sure there is the odd misstep (a scene at a mansion filled with cocaine-snorting revellers is especially misjudged), but mostly Nasty Neighbours is a triumph of talent and imagination over limited funds and time. It will make you laugh, think and feel - - and you can't say that about too many Brit flicks these days.
Nasty Neighbours was adapted by Isitt from her own play, but you wouldn't know it. Her free-wheeling direction leaves no room for theatrical distractions, as Daniels and Tomlinson face off among the shrubbery of suburbia. A new film-making talent has arrived.