Review: Spoke (2017)

Spoke (2017)

Directed by: Steven de Jong | 105 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Tim Douwsma, Aart Staartjes, Raymond Thiry, Jack Wouters, Saskia Elise, Valerie Pos, Wietske de Jong, Nick Golterman, Ramon Ramnath, Amin Ait Bihi, Michiel Kerbosch, Andre Dongelmans, Steven de Jong, Hilly Harms

The life of 24-year-old Luuk Meijer (Tim Douwsma) is a bit messy. The relationship between father (Raymond Thiry) and son is not very cordial, girlfriend Vanessa (Saskia Elise) does not take her relationship with Luuk so seriously and he cannot find the motivation to focus on his chemistry studies. Cycling seems to be his only outlet and the firm yet loving approach of coach Dieter Nijdam (Aart Staartjes) ensures that Luuk does not let his cycling talent slacken. However, experimenting with chemicals is good for him. Luuk seems to want to focus his attention on that, because it soon turns out that his own developed drug pills “the Black Bitch” are popular with many partying young people. When he decides to smuggle his pills across the border, things go awry. Luuk is caught and ends up in a prison in Sweden. There he meets the unkempt but reliable Jorgen (Jack Wouterse) with whom he forges a plan to escape, with the necessary adventures as a result. Luuk eventually comes to the realization that drugs destroy lives and does everything he can to improve his own life – including cycling – and to inspire others to do the same.

What drugs can do you can do better is the motto in ‘Spaak’. The Frisian director Steven de Jong, known for his films such as ‘De schippers van de Kameleon’ (2003) and ‘De hel van ’63’ (2009), decided to base the film partly on the life story of Paul Rood, as in the autobiographical book ‘Great resistance’ is described. In order to learn the tricks of the trade, many students who follow the Audiovisual Production training have had the great opportunity to work behind the scenes on the production of ‘Spaak’ under the supervision of professionals. Undoubtedly an experience they will never forget.

Drugs, smuggling, prison, escape are usually the right ingredients to make an exciting film. Unfortunately, the implementation in this case leaves much to be desired. For example, the choice to place certain shots or scenes one after the other is illogical, which sometimes causes a strange transition. The action or tension is meager or too overdone and situations are often predictable or not always believable. The scavenging of well-known actors also does not ensure that the film is of a high standard. Tim Douwsma, singer and presenter, may have the looks, but as an actor he knows how to perform less well. Whether it’s about (transferring) a certain emotion or expression, it all remains a bit on the superficial side. For Raymond Thiry, the link with drugs is quickly made thanks to his strong performance in the hit series ‘Penoza’, but his role as Luuk’s bitter father is minor and therefore not necessarily worth mentioning. Jack Wouters has also done more convincing work and does not make the desired impression as the joker of the couple. Whose acting talents are sufficiently expressed, and that at a respectable age, are those of Aart Staartjes. The powerful, recognizable voice and facial expressions are familiar and fit well within the character of a competitive cycling coach.

The title of the film is a nice invention and the initiative to collaborate with students is thoughtful of De Jong, but especially for that reason ‘Spaak’ falls more under the category of (amateurish) student film project: an anti-drug film by and for young people.

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