Danny Dyer is man on autopilot. He is one of those actors that’s found a role that he plays to a tee and does nothing but replay the same character again and again in his own personal Groundhog Day. That’s not always a bad thing, after all, when did you last see Morgan Freeman play anything but the soft-spoken voice of wisdom? But with Dyer it’s the same, crucially bad characters that he keeps revisiting and his name on the credits is almost like a bad omen.
Pimp is no exception, as here he’s trotted out as Stanley, the boss of an underground crime syndicate, a swear-happy, casually racist wide-boy in charge of titular sex trafficker Woody. The film is shot in a faux documentary style as a camera crew follow Woody for a week through the seedy depths of the Soho underground.
He quickly becomes embroiled in a turf war with the rival Chinese syndicate (flatteringly called ‘The Chinks’ throughout the whole movie) because Woody’s stolen their favourite prostitute. He’s also having trouble getting some of his girls to work and current punter favourite Petra has disappeared. When he receives an apparent snuff movie featuring one of his old girls, Oxanna, Woody decides that it’s time to take matters into his own grubby hands.
Robert Cavanagh puts in a believable performance as Woody, caught in the grotty world that he inhabits with little chance of escape. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about his writing and directing as for the most part, Pimp is charmless and soulless calamity full of racism, homophobia, sexism and a swear count that would make Mary Whitehouse revolve in her grave at 800 rpm.
Yes, all these undesirable elements are present in his life but really, what purpose is served by close-ups of Danny Dyer’s mouth while he reels off a string of expletives?
The very concept of a faux-documentary is completely botched because If the camera crew were to use any of the hidden footage they’ve worked hard to obtain, anyone, including Stanley would see it anyway and be understandably annoyed, so it begs the question of why they bother to try to obtain it in the first place – the pretence of documentary is dropped as soon as the scene finds it too inconvenient to fit them in.
Even its attempts at shock are limp – in this day and age, where you could find something four times as shocking with a couple of clicks of a mouse, a film’s got to either pull out all the stops or at least have something meaningful to say about its gratuity. Instead, all we’re given is quotes of bad poetry delivered by characters as an attempt to give them an illusion of depth; a depth which Pimp doesn’t have – not in style, substance or soul.