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A Sensational Film About Street Violence In London Is Now Streaming


A new film about street violence in London was a sensation when it was released in British theaters, but that was months ago. The film "Blue Story" arrived this week on this side of the Atlantic on streaming services. Here's critic Bob Mondello with a review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Before there are even images on screen, you hear the sadly familiar drone of media reporting on gang wars. Then, as images appear, those reports give way to a different sort of reporting.


RAPMAN: (Rapping) Welcome to London, aka the dungeon. Shoot-outs and stabbings on like every other junction.

MONDELLO: This is rapper Andrew Onwubolu, who goes by the name Rapman. He is the writer, director and occasional onscreen Greek chorus for "Blue Story." The film is based on a series of YouTube videos he did a few years back. Those, in turn, were based partly on his own experience in high school in South London. So he has credibility when he sings...


RAPMAN: (Singing) And I ain't trying to jump the five (ph), but I'mma (ph) show you what these young boys are fighting for.

MONDELLO: His story begins when 11-year-old Timmy learns he's being sent to a new school in a different suburb.


STEPHEN ODUBOLA: (As Timmy) All my friends are (unintelligible). Why can't I just go there?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Timmy, we already spoke about this. Boro High is a really good school.

ODUBOLA: (As Timmy) But what about all my friends?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You will make new friends, better ones.

MONDELLO: His mom's right. Marco, a kid he meets at the new school, becomes a best bud for life. But there are fault lines in South London, and Timmy will now be on the wrong side of one of them. His neighborhood is Ghetto Boys territory. Marco's is Peckham Boys territory. Gang turf matters a few years later when he's chatting up a pretty classmate, and some Peckham Boys tell him to bounce.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) You little youngers didn't see me and my boy coming to talk to these two tings (ph). Bounce.

ODUBOLA: (As Timmy) I'm not going nowhere, unless you want me to go over there.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) No, Timmy. You don't have to go.

MONDELLO: The only thing that saves Timmy is the fact that Marco's brother is a Peckham Boys big shot, and Marco gets there just in time.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Hey, are you my man?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) How are you friends with a ghetto youth?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) He's not ghetto. He just lives in the area. He don't even know any of them.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Obviously he's going to tell you that when he goes to school here.

MONDELLO: Timmy and Marco walk away unscathed, only to have the same thing happen in reverse on Timmy's side of town. Why the animosity? It doesn't really matter. It's baked in. And it's headed, you'll realize pretty quickly, towards tragedy.


MONDELLO: For a big screen directing debut, "Blue Story" is pretty accomplished. Rapman's previous work has all been short form, which has made him more adept at capturing moments than at sustaining a narrative. This film borrows from plenty of similar tales and stokes its melodrama effectively, but it's almost more engaging when it ducks the gang stuff and lets Timmy pursue that classmate he almost got killed talking to. Not only is she gorgeous, it turns out she has a voice.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character, singing) I only got one rule. Can you keep it strictly us?

ODUBOLA: (As Timmy) Wow. Your voice is dope. You should be a singer.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character) How many singers have ever come out of Peckham?

ODUBOLA: (As Timmy) Well, none. It's not like you can't be the first.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #6: (As character) I wish.

ODUBOLA: (As Timmy) I'm serious. Look at John Boyega. He's from Peckham. And look. He's in "Star Wars" now.

MONDELLO: So someone got out. For the characters in "Blue Story," it's a heavier lift but certainly an urgent and immediate one, a boys in the south London hood filmed in English with English subtitles because in turf wars, the one thing that's always deadly is miscommunication. I'm Bob Mondello.


RAPMAN: (Rapping) RIP, RIP to all the innocent lives. I hope these youngers wake up and they start seeing the light. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.