Stephen Graham and Michael Smiley are two British actors who always make you look twice. They’re both strong presences in this gloomy, atmospheric film about a troubled Jewish butcher, Benjamin (Graham), and a local crim, Shannon (Smiley), whose orbit Benjamin has been in since he was a young boy caught between bullies, his faith, disapproving parents and a growing knack for boxing.
Now that Benjamin is a grown man, married with two kids and lumbered with a failing shop in a terrible area of an unnamed British city, life is harder than ever – making him a prime target for a shady local rabbi-cum-property magnate, Goldberg (Christopher Fairbank), whose dirty work Shannon manages. The feature debut of actor David Leon, ‘Orthodox’ displays a deft handling of mood. The story and characterisation are a mixed bag, though. Too many questions are posed but unanswered, and some key events feel distractingly bogus.
To its credit, ‘Orthodox’ offers a strong sense of a community where faith and authority mask moral corruption and personal greed. Just as ‘Spotlight’ has it in for priests, this is no ad for rabbis.