The spirit of Small Time, Shane Meadows’ first film, is summed up in his character’s opening lines, “There is one thing you gotta understand right, this ain't fuckin’ London. This isn't even Nottingham, man. This is Sneinton, and in Sneinton all that matters is having a tenner in your pocket, you know what I mean? Don’t matter how you get it." The rest of the film doesn’t disappoint.
A master of subtlety and grittiness, Shane Meadow’s films cut so very close to the bone. This is England was the first of his films that I saw (as I’m sure is the same with the vast majority of you) followed by Somerstown, his slightly less commercially successful but equally, if not more touching and real film. His low-key kitchen-sink style is very attractive in contrast to the crowds of big budget Hollywood films where the only selling points are big explosions and bigger breasts.
The BFI has chosen a good time to re-release Shane Meadows earlier works; in the wake of This is England 86 which raised his mainstream popularity a couple of notches. Small Time tells the story of Meadows’ rag-tag gang of petty criminals who specialise in theft in Nottingham, the troupe relate themselves to Robin Hood by stealing from the rich and selling to the poor at a nifty profit.
The film’s really low budget quality, dodgy wigs and the use of Shane’s mates as extras and their houses as locations, adds to the charm of the film. Some of the banter between the gang of pals is classic. The characters for the most part are very likeable and relatable to me at least. Just normal people struggling to get by and making money in any way they can.