The frustrating thing about the British heist flick "Wasteland" is how it creates two admirably entertaining storytelling strands — one a friendship saga, the other a robbery caper — yet can't merge the two successfully. We first meet Harvey (Luke Treadaway) in a bloodied, post-arrest state being attentively questioned by a detective (Timothy Spall), upon which we get the movie's story in flashback.
Harvey is a young ex-con who upon getting out of prison quickly reconnected with his best buddies and a former flame. But what was really on his mind is enlisting his mates in exacting revenge on the ruthless local drug kingpin (Neil Maskell) who framed him. Writer-director Rowan Athale's first feature does a solid job setting up the stakes: the difficulty of convincing others to pull off a dangerous stunt, the desperation inherent in depressed communities full of dashed hopes (in this case, an especially bleak Yorkshire) and even the sadistic nature of Harvey's adversary.
As the second half narrows its focus on the heist, however, things get increasingly convoluted and preposterous, as Athale attempts to graft a twist-laden, stylish, crime-of-the-century sheen on something slice-of-life and pulpy. The ambition gets in the way, leaving "Wasteland" more hollow than exhilarating.
MPAA Rating: No MPAA rating
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal, Los Angeles.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun