When an ambush goes awry, former paramilitary fighter Michael O’Hara (Colin Morgan) witnesses a British soldier (Aml Ameen) shoot his pregnant wife dead. Rather than facing punishment for the killing, the soldier – codenamed Tempest – is assigned to a small elite group in London to tackle terrorism. However, having survived the ambush, O’Hara sets out to get revenge.
Directed and written by Charles and Thomas Guard (their first film since Tale of Two Sisters remake The Uninvited), based on a screenplay by Ronan Bennett, Dead Shot has the makings for a gritty, low-budget British thriller. The 1970s London setting is well-realised and lends the flick an aesthetic reminiscent of classic TV shows like The Sweeney, with a soundscape of psychedelic rock and trance-like synth coating the London streets in a pulpy atmosphere. Unfortunately, however, much of the suspense falls flat due to underdeveloped characters and a plot which seems to make itself up as it goes along.
For the central conflict to work, viewers need to have a reason to sympathise with each of the leads. Beyond their surface-level motivations, though, each character is disappointingly one-note. Not only does Tempest forgo any sort of depth when the script tosses out his guilt for killing an innocent woman almost immediately, but his goals are as mundane as wanting to serve his country and be with his on-and-off-again girlfriend (Sophia Brown). Michael’s characterisation is even shallower given his entire arc is built on revenge, with nothing about his past crimes or history with violence impacting his character.
Rather, each of the key players ooze an exaggerated machismo, which, while occasionally making for amusing one-liners and moments of punchy violence, do little to engage viewers in the action. Just as half-hearted is the script’s attempts at incorporating moments of social commentary that rarely go further than a few lines of dialogue.
The thrills are only further dampened by a meandering plotline which doesn’t ramp up to any sort of stakes until well into the final act. Coupled with the lacklustre characters and becoming invested in this collision course of vengeance becomes difficult. Consequently, the eventual confrontation between the leads feels entirely unearned, with a final plot point that comes out of nowhere being more comical than shocking in its abruptness.
Dead Shot is released on Sky on 12th May 2023.
Watch the trailer for Dead Shot here: