On paper The Calcium Kid should be the perfect showcase for upcoming British film industry talent. This low-budget comedy, a WT2 production, features rising Hollywood star Orlando Bloom, is directed by first-time feature director Alex De Rakoff and written by two new Scottish writers, Raymond Friel and Derek Boyle, who were discovered through Working Title’s New Writer’s Scheme. It even features celebrity wife turned serious actor Billie Piper. So why then is The Calcium Kid such a massive disappointment?
The Calcium Kid tells the story of Jimmy Connelly (Orlando Bloom), a nave young milkman who, following a bizarre series of events, finds himself lined up to fight the world championship middleweight boxer Jose Mendez (Michael Pna) in London. The film, shot throughout in a grating mockumentary style, follows Connelly’s journey from wholesome milkman to professional boxer, featuring a cast of overblown caricatures ranging from his ageing Irish trainer (David Kelly) to his dodgy manager (Omid Djalli) to his sluttish mother (Ronni Ancona).
Bloom puts in a decent enough effort as the film’s hero and no doubt his doe-eyed performance will endear him to his legions of female fans, but the part is poorly written. Surely no-one growing up on a Vauxhall council estate could possibly be that nave. It also doesn’t help that he wanders round the film dressed like a trendy Camden media worker – his polished looks don’t fit in with the rest of the film, which does actually depict this part of London quite accurately.
Ronni Ancona as his “massage therapist” mother puts in a performance that is a cross between Peggy Mitchell and Kat Slater and doesn’t convince that she can easily make the transition from TV impressionist to film actress. Billie Piper, who plays love interest Angel, fails to disguise her drama school voice, which sounds nothing short of ridiculous saying lines like, “Can I have my knockers back now?”
There are some decent displays of talent on show here, however. Rafe Spall is excellent as Connelly’s best mate Stan and his South London rap is a genuinely funny moment. Michael Pna, who was also excellent in Buffalo Soldiers, demonstrates his on-screen charisma to the full and Tamer Hassan, who is a former boxer, is thoroughly convincing as the psychotic injured fighter.
However this is not British comedy at its best. The concept would perhaps work as a 20-minute TV sketch but as a full-length feature it feels drawn-out, tired and predictable. The gags can be seen from the other side of London and the characters are nothing new. With innovative comedy like Little Britain, The Office and the League Of Gentlemen reaching widespread popularity, this looks more like a decent GCSE drama piece in comparison.
It is obvious that director Da Rakoff comes from a background of music promos because The Calcium Kid is over-stylised and definitely inspired by the MTV generation. However even the MTV generation would find this film too vacuous.
If it weren’t for the pulling power of leading man Bloom it is doubtful that this film would have reached distribution but 90 minutes of the heart throb will ensure that enough teenage girls will turn up at the box office to justify this production. Anyone else would be well-advised to stay away.