Set in the council estates of fictional Dudlowe (standing in for Creevy’s native Harlow), ‘Shifty’ traces the reacquaintance of two friends: humorously laconic Chris (Daniel Mays, excellent), visiting home for 24 hours after four long years in Manchester quietly recuperating from moral and romantic wounds inflicted by an old girlfriend; and Shifty (Riz Ahmed), an intelligent and once ambitious school pal of Chris who has become progressively hardened, boxed in and self-justifying by a life spent supplying drugs. The dealing is an occupation that Shifty is keen to keep secret from the more orthodox Muslim older brother (Nitin Ganatra) with whom he shares a house.
So far, then, all seems familiar. The scene is set for a clash of loyalties and a contrast of destinies between the sobered, returning hero and the bad egg, with the rules and tropes of the old westerns ready to be played out in the new concrete battlegrounds of our housing estates. But, some minor hiccups aside (not least the role of Jason Flemyng as Shifty’s boss Glen), what Creevy delivers is something far more seductive, witty and involving: a non-deterministic portrait of a friendship that’s allowed to emerge organically and suggestively through the subtle, enjoyable interplay, mannerisms, body language and banter of the principals. Creevy’s fine ear for dialogue, sensitive and productive direction of actors and confident control of tone is all the more impressive for being delivered under the short schedule and tight budgetary exigencies of Film London’s Microwave initiative.