‘Criminal Audition’ is a clever, tension-focussed thriller with a satisfyingly brutal edge.

The film’s premise – which is refreshingly original I might add – follows the activities of a shady organisation catering for the rich and corrupt, providing them a fall guy (or gal) for a nominal price; effectively allowing them to get away with murder.

The film opens as three down and outs are set to audition for the latest position as patsy. The plan, to convince a panel of two that, when pressed for details they could sway a jury of their peers in fitting the profile of the killer. As such they work through a range of scenarios, offering details only someone present could know – often with some dark humour scattered in for good measure as these non-criminals desperately try to convince otherwise.

That said, things don’t quite go to plan, as the usually anonymous client decides to get a little ‘hands-on’ with the management of this particular ‘audition’.

There’s a number of things that strike you in the early parts of ‘Criminal Audition’, the first, the meticulous attention to detail with regards to some gorgeously lit and graded sets. I’m such a sucker for atmosphere – and the lighting used, in particular, set a standard I hoped would be matched by the other aspects of the production.

Following this I found myself drawn into a plot which, is nothing short of ingenious with regards to its scope, and the number of social parallels it draws; many of which relate to both class divide and the corruption which often coincides with power.

I’ve no idea if this was all intended, or a ‘happy’ accident with the current events of this year, but ultimately, whilst simple in concept I struggle to think of another film which has done anything similar; originality is hard to come by these days, and always a pleasant surprise when it does.

I said in my opener that ‘Criminal Audtion’ is a tension thriller, and by and large that’s what you get. It is a very dialogue driven film, and whilst there are some scenes of violence, you are going to spend a lot of time with a small number of characters, in limited, claustrophobic locations. In some ways, the film feels a lot like visiting the theatre rather than watching a piece of cinema.

And that’s a compliment.

The acting is fantastic throughout, and I’m not talking ‘ok for an indie film’, I mean really fantastic. Whilst I wouldn’t say there’s any really out there characters, each have their edge and the cast do such a great job of making them feel both relatable, but essential so as to have a part to play in the story. The script is as equally tight, balancing well exposition and character development so as to keep the pace of the film flowing nicely, without feeling like it was stalling for time.

When the film needs to dispatch one of its characters the violence, whilst admittedly limited by horror film standards, is brutal in its concept. The film has something of a gangster element to it (the sophisticated type as opposed to the OG style) and as such there’s a variety to the methods of execution. Whilst I don’t want to give too much away, there’s one guy whose modus operandum is so British that it would be comical if it wasn’t so brutal! Where there’s a need for some blood, the effects look great.

Overall, ‘Criminal Audition’ is one of those films which you see at a festival, on a bill surrounded by other films with a higher profile, and it comes out on top. In terms of production, it’s a textbook example of how to get film making on a budget right – investing in the things you can control, and making sure that’s what gets you capital in the finished product. Great concept, flawlessly executed in my mind; my only provision is that, as it is a dialogue heavy movie, more casual genre fans might be expecting something more typical.