Paul Hills begged money from his friends and family, sold his possessions, slept on the streets and even hitchhiked to purchase film stock in order to produce his first feature, “The Frontline”. The film was shot every weekend for six months in the gloomy Moss Side and Hulme housing projects of Manchester, England and was created by a cast and crew that worked virtually for free.
The story is one you’ve probably heard before. Just released from a mental institution, James (Vincent Phillips) attempts to resurrect his relationship with Marion (Amanda Noar), an outspoken DJ at a local radio station. Everything seems wonderful at first, but, as we quickly discover, Marion struggles with drug addiction (namely heroin). James soon uncovers Marion’s propensity for drugs and is seemingly successful in his efforts to help her overcome her dependency. However, James’ recovery efforts are futile (which seems to be the general theme) and Marion is inevitably murdered due to her connection to the Manchester drug world. The crooked police hastily cover-up the murder, declaring it a suicide. James and Marion’s father, however, realize that foul play is afoot and quickly become determined to educe revenge for Marion’s death.
Although the story is fairly basic, at a certain point (after Marion’s murder) the film becomes hard to follow and not just because of the strong British accents. The connection between the murder and the corruption of Manchester and its authority figures is extremely weak. By far the most annoying part about “The Frontline” is the rapping DJ, Cosmic MC (the name alone should prove my point), who, of course, has dreadlocks. If you can overcome Cosmic MC’s (Leroy Cooper) rapping narrative the film is worth seeing, especially considering all that Paul Hills endured in order to produce the movie. Although the story is a bit trite (yet somehow hard to follow), the backdrop of desolate Manchester is perfect for the content as well as the film stock (16mm). “The Frontline” is especially impressive considering the virtually nonexistent budget (approximately $16,000). While the story is a bit weak, the performances and direction are as good, if not better, than most Hollywood blockbusters.