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The Hard Stop (Review)

15/07/2016 13:37 | Updated 15 July 2016

There's something undeniably poignant about director George Amponsah's sprawling documentary about Marcus Knox and Kurtis Henville, friends of Mark Duggan, whose death at the hands of the police sparked the riots in 2011.

The Hard Stop is an intimate portrait in which Duggan is ever present, like a kind of digital ghost. We see footage of Duggan as a pallbearer at his cousin's funeral in a distinctive, customised white suit with DIY images and slogans printed on the back. There he is cradling his infant daughter, dancing with friends and family after a night out. A million miles away from the violent thug police portrayed him to be.

Filmed around Broadwater Farm, in Tottenham, north London, we follow Knox as he waits to be sentenced for his part in the riots, the most violent in British history in which five people died and caused damage estimated at £200 million. Meanwhile, Henville searches desperately for a job, anxious to keep out of prison after a spell in a young offenders institution for drug dealing. But neither Knox nor Henville are the "hard men" the media made them out to be - just disaffected, badly educated young men sorely in need of direction and opportunity. There are millions more just like them all over the country.

Like the two men it follows, this film drifts aimlessly - until we get to Duggan's immediate family, his mother and his aunt, who are both vocal and strident, organising a vigil to commemorate Mark's murder. I can't help feeling that it is these two women who should really have been at the heart of this documentary.

The Hard Stop is the sort of film that raises more questions than it answers. What's interesting here is what isn't said: Duggan was clearly allowed to bleed to death at the roadside. While the officer who shot Duggan is not identified by name, we see his pixelated face outside the courthouse after the inquiry. I would like to know if the officer is still serving and where. I would also like to know why Duggan was singled out for a major operation of this kind in the first place - he clearly wasn't anywhere close to being a major criminal.

There are many questions to be asked about Operation Trident and the Metropolitan Police's target-driven culture which seems to compel them to go after low-hanging fruit, rather than those at the top of the criminal hierarchy.

While worth seeing, The Hard Stop feels far from complete. There are definitely more stories to be told about the events surrounding Mark Duggan's death.

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