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Adulthood review

Hard to say what’s worse. Finding yourself skewered in a knife attack just minutes after getting out of prison? Or discovering that your old girlfriend’s going out with Danny Dyer? Six years after Kidulthood’s ASBO-drama saw him banged up for a brutal baseball-bat killing, former bully-boy Sam (Kidulthood writer/star and Doctor Who alumni Noel Clarke) has to deal with both. And that’s for starters: over the next 24 hours, Sam is forced to face all the people he hurt – and find out which of them is out to kill him.

So, even if the title’s more sensible, most of the kids aren’t. West London’s streets are still paved with sex, drugs, violence, aggravation and angst. But having had the bad-man strut kicked out of him – we flashback to the violent learning curve that awaited Sam in the Big House – he has truly grown up the hard way. Shoulders hunched and eyes heavy with guilt and pain, writer/director Clarke delivers a convincingly lonely, reticent performance. His most striking work comes during painful confrontations with his anguished mother and the girlfriend and child of the boy he killed, totally burying his poor early-Who days as a comedy sidekick. What’s more, Clarke’s debut behind the camera is full of pace and energy – if more than a little over-overexcited: split screens, slo-mo, ADD jump-cuts, throbbing bass...

But with ace Trainspotting director of photography Brian Tufano lensing once again, Adulthood’s pavement of split-screens feel right. This is an urban comic-strip: broad, rude, funny, brutal and with clichés flying as thick and fast as Clarke’s spiky, street-savvy dialogue. And Adulthood believes so naively and passionately in these clichés that it’s easy to roll with them. Juggling a fistful of damaged characters impressively, Clarke draws raw but heartfelt performances from his young cast, cementing a thin layer of authenticity that stops Adulthood sinking into shallow, overblown melodrama.

That said, the first-time director can’t quite resist a ludicrous John Woo-style Face/Off finale between a gun and a baseball bat – complete with hilarious 180-degree power-dolly...

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