Teenage Wasteland

Running Time 100 minutes
Written and directed By Shane Meadows
Starring Thomas Turgoose

Shane Meadows, former skinhead and petty crook turned director, remains obsessed with criminal violence and masculine role-playing in an atmosphere of rural decay. Dead Man’s Shoes attracted a few admirers of this sordid view, and his latest, This is England, re-creates with apparent authority the skinhead culture of neo-Nazis and racist thugs in which the director was raised; indeed, the protagonist, a 12-year-old kid recruited into the underbelly of anarchy by rebellious hoodlums, is named Shaun (a substitute for Shane). In the social unrest of 1983, Shaun is a lost cause whose father was killed in the Falklands War, a military blunder that produced no heroes and is now forgotten. Lonely and living in poverty and rage, Shaun becomes a mascot to the older boys, who break into empty apartments with hammers and axes to destroy and pillage. Plodding aimlessly through blarney thick enough to grow weeds in, Shaun finally sees the light, in a drug-riddled rampage that leaves his mentors like victims of the Blitz—but it’s too late to care. The point is that behind the hostility and swagger, England’s skinheads were nothing more than sad exponents of social injustice, unemployment and Margaret Thatcher’s misguided social reform policies. Mr. Meadows has a dubious way with amateur actors. Thomas Turgoose, who plays Shaun, does look like he appeared unannounced from the garbage spills of Liverpool. This is England is a vile exercise in nihilism that goes nowhere fast. Wasted youth in goth costumes looking for a place to belong is nothing new, but watching a teenage Vampira offering her tattooed breasts to the hungry mouth of a slobbering 12-year-old is not my favorite brand of déjà vu. Teenage Wasteland