A version of this review appeared in The Age, August 19, 2010.
Written and co-directed by former Doctor Who sidekick Noel Clarke, 126.96.36.199. is the kind of entertainingly bad movie that should have been made in the late 1990s, the last time filmmakers could hope to look edgy by depending on dirty-neon cinematography, non-linear storytelling and Girl Power sentiments.
Our heroines are a quartet of energetic young women from London: a wrist-slitting emo (Ophelia Lovibond), a virginal pianist (Tamsin Egerton), a bi-racial lesbian (Shanika Warren-Markland) and a sassy Yank (Emma Roberts). All four are Best Friends Forever and models of empowerment, in the sense that they exhibit impressive self-defense skills and like to chat about vibrators.
Over the course of a weekend they part ways to embark on various solo adventures, reuniting for the action climax. There's an idiotic plot about a bag of stolen diamonds, but crime-fighting proves less of a challenge for the girls than working through more mundane issues with their obnoxious or over-protective families.
Among the leads, Warren-Marland and Roberts seem to be having the most fun, though no-one can match the impact of Michelle Ryan in a brief appearance as a slinky jewel thief. By design, most of the male characters are pathetic or worse (one of the exceptions is played by Kevin Smith, in a cameo that spoofs his highly-publicised battle with a US airline).
It's far from clear what audience Clarke and his co-director Mark Davis are aiming to please with this hectic concoction, especially as the pseudo-feminist message dissolves in a fog of lechery whenever the camera gets near a bedroom. All the same, it's hard to dislike a film that suggests either a belated sequel to Spice World (1997) or a Guy Ritchie version of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005). I regret to say I enjoyed nearly every minute.