Jet Trash is a decaf Swordfish Runner Runner with the constant quick cutting, slow-motion, over-exposed neon colors and other digital-film affectations of those films.
Jet Trash has two distinct ancestral lines in cinematic history. The first is thematic, where it follows in the wake of films such as The Hit and Sexy Beast, and the other is stylistic, with the film mimicking other frenetic digital-age efforts such as Swordfish and Runner Runner. Unfortunately, it is the fifth best film of that group of films. Jet Trash is entertaining, but it lacks both the ambitious stakes and set pieces of the loud digital US-American films above and the subtle character studies of the two British classics.
Jet Trash tells the story of two young London hustlers—Lee (Robert Sheehan) and Sol (Osy Ikhile)—on the run from a powerful gangster, Marlowe (Craig Parkinson). They are hiding out on the Indian oceanfront outside Goa, where they party, swim and bicker with their uptight housemate. The film wants to give the impression that they are leading bacchanalian lives of hard-charging drug use, raucous parties and lots of inconsequential sex. It uses acid-bright colors, slow motion and weird lighting effects to suggest this lifestyle. But Lee and Sol as shown do not live such a life. Over and over again, Jet Trash falls into this flash-over-substance issue; it wants to be speedball-chased-with-whisky edgy but is instead a diet soda version of such an edge.
Lee and Sol’s beachcombing idyll is abruptly ended by the appearance of Vix (Sofia Boutella), Lee’s former paramour from London and a known associate of Marlowe. They fear that their hiding spot has been discovered and their nemesis has crossed Eurasia to exact his vengeance. What follows is a fairly standard genre affair where the hapless Lee and Sol bumble about and pathetically work to cling to survival.
The main issue with Jet Trash is that its ambition never matches its stentorian stylings. Through a series of clunky flashbacks, the viewer learns why Lee and Sol have fled London and fear Marlowe. They did not, as one may suspect, particularly given past British films like The Hit, snitch on Marlowe to the authorities. Nor did they rip him off for a large sum of money, turn other gang leaders against him or betray him in any meaningful way. They were angry about the consequences of a bad deal they made with him and tried to assault him. Then they fled with some remnant of 15,000 pounds. This is a milquetoast gangster backstab story. No one got rich or robbed or arrested. Again, the edge is not really here.
Another primary problem with the film is the characters. Lee is a loser with no personality and a very pretty face. He is two-bit drug dealer who gets in with Marlowe. Sol is even less developed. He has black skin and big muscles, and that seems to be the extent of character development the filmmakers felt he required. Lee and Sol collaborate to convince one of Sol’s acquaintances to marry him so she can get a residency card for the UK, except Marlowe paid Sol under the table to buy the woman for his human trafficking network. When something bad happens to her, Lee and Sol attack Marlowe and then escape to Goa, a place that Lee had told Vix he wanted to visit (making them easy to track down). The characters have horrible names, are not people and are idiots. It’s a problem; at least Swordfish matched its hyperbolic masculine swagger with on-screen hedonism and made the characters into actual humans.
Above all, Jet Trash suffers from its puerile sense of humor. Most of the jokes are low-IQ Orientalist gags. Lee fears a lynch mob will string him up for striking and killing a cow with his scooter, for example. Then there is Lee and Sol’s housemate—a white male ex-US Marine—who wears traditional Indian dress and chastises Lee for killing a mosquito. In addition to supposed comic relief, this character is needed for a crucial deus ex machina but is otherwise pointless. The non-racist “jokes” are equally juvenile, such as Lee telling Sol he made eye contact with him while masturbating in the ocean.
Jet Trash is a decaf Swordfish/Runner Runner with the constant quick cutting, slow-motion, over-exposed neon colors and other digital-film affectations of those films, but without the full commitment to violence and hedonism. For those expecting director Charles Henri Belleville to instead take up a Sexy Beast-style tale, it is equally disappointing.