Jericho Ridge (2023, dir. Will Gilbey)

by | Apr 29, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 87 mins

UK Distributor: The Movie Partnership

UK Release Date: 25 April 2024

WHO’S IN JERICHO RIDGE?

Nikki Amuka-Bird, Solly McLeod, Zack Morris, Michael Socha, Capital T, Olivia Chenery, Philipp Christopher, Zachary Hart, Aidan Kelly, Simon Kunz, Alex Tate, Pippa Winslow

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Will Gilbey (director, writer), Harvey Ascott, Mark O’Sullivan and Alex Tate (producers), Christopher Benstead (composer), Ruairí O’Brien (cinematographer), Sarah Peczek (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A group of murderous criminals target a remote Sherriff’s Office…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON JERICHO RIDGE?

The nice thing about writer-director Will Gilbey’s debut feature Jericho Ridge is that it’s as straightforward as they come. It locks itself down on a simple premise, doesn’t spend too much time weaving in any political messages or social commentary, and is utterly earnest in its steadfast approach towards replicating the feel of old-fashioned B-movies you’d often see in the 70s and 80s.

It is exactly the kind of movie you think it’s going to be, and there’s no shame in admitting that, for Jericho Ridge wears its throwback charm proudly on its sleeve as it gives audiences a grim and decently entertaining ride with its familiar but reliable premise.

The film primarily takes place at a remote Sherriff’s Office in the small American town of Jericho Ridge (with the snowy exteriors of Kosovo filling in for an undisclosed red-belt part of the country). Deputy Sherriff Tabby Temple (Nikki Amuka-Bird), stuck in a foot cast after a severe injury, is called into work to man the radios while her fellow officers are out making various calls, while her grounded teenage son Monty (Zack Morris) is forced to accompany her. As the day quickly turns into chilly night, Tabby suddenly finds her precinct being ambushed by a pair of gunmen, including the psychotic Carter (played by German actor and Frank Grillo clone Philipp Christopher), and that she is the only one who can hold the fort with the reluctant help of her trouble-making son.

With its close narrative ties to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, as well as the 1958 John Wayne-led Western Rio Bravo that Carpenter’s film was loosely based on, Jericho Ridge is not a film that strays too far from formula. Gilbey’s script harbours many familiar narrative attributes, from the troubled cop protagonist (who is downing pills in the first few frames we see her in) to the locked-up prisoner that becomes an unlikely asset during the central siege, who in this case happens to be a belligerent wife-beater played by Michael Socha. Much of what happens here follows the pattern accordingly, which can admittedly make certain elements less surprising than they’re being played as being, since you have seen many of them done almost exactly numerous times before. Even the dialogue is stern and hard-boiled with deliveries to match, in a way that almost makes it feel like a parody of a cop thriller rather than the genuine article.

However, Gilbey – previously best known for co-writing and co-editing gangster flick Rise of the Footsoldier with filmmaker brother Julian Gilbey – doesn’t seem to be in a ripping-off mood with Jericho Ridge. Rather, his is a film that wants to pay heartfelt homage to the gritty and claustrophobic type of storytelling that are clear influences on his directorial style. He approaches his own take on the material with a tense build-up before allowing all hell to break loose from a certain point onwards, making effective use of police dashcams for particular early sequences, and then establishing a terrifying warzone where bullets fly about like lasers in a Star Wars movie from unseen vantage points, smashing windows and blowing massive holes into doors. From that, Gilbey emerges as a filmmaker who certainly knows how to build suspense, even when elements of the plot itself threaten to become tangled up among themselves (the reason why these gunmen are attacking in the first place is almost laughably petty).

It’s also a well-acted thriller, with Nikki Amuka-Bird giving an impressive emotional and physical turn (as a reminder, she has a cast on her foot for the entire thing) as her evening gets progressively worse. A later teary monologue shared with on-screen son Zack Morris (from EastEnders, if you’re wondering) is particularly well-executed by both the actor and the filmmakers, who all provide the right amount of lighting, editing and direction to push the moment beyond a firm piece of acting. Incidentally, Amuka-Bird and most of the rest of the cast are British, and they mostly nail their deep American accents with very minor fluctuations among them all, which is a commendable achievement in and of itself (not that British actors sounding American is uncommon, but I’ve seen films with all-British casts playing US characters that have a far worse overall grasp on the accent).

The film isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but as a fun B-movie throwback Jericho Ridge does everything it says on the tin. It’s to-the-point, unpretentious, and knows exactly what it is, which I’m certain is what Gilbey intended from the beginning, so consider it a goal that’s been truly achieved.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Jericho Ridge is a decently entertaining B-movie throwback to films like Assault on Precinct 13, which might not stray too far from that particular formula, but delivers enough of a heartfelt homage as well as some impressive performances to set itself apart.

Three out of five stars

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