Neil Maskell: the charismatic British actor who makes his feature debut as a writer-director

Neil Maskell is the charismatic British actor known for his complex, seriocomic tough-guy performances in the movies of Ben Wheatley and Paul Andrew Williams; now he makes a worthwhile feature debut as writer-director in this diverting if slightly lightweight black-comic sketch about political paranoia, on which Wheatley has an executive producer credit.

Mysterious whistleblowers hiding out in Belgium

Amit Shah and Sura Dohnke play Ewan and Silke, a married couple who are whistleblowers hiding out in Belgium, having revealed a government secret to a newspaper. (“Klokkenluider” – literally “bellringer” – is the Dutch word for “whistleblower”, used throughout the Low Countries.)

Minders and their complicated dynamic

Two somewhat mysterious blokes travel to the couple’s safe house to be their minders: droll, bickering performances from Tom Burke and Roger Evans as Chris and Glynn, who are more than a little fed up with this kind of security work and with each other.

An amusingly tense situation

Glynn gets unprofessionally drunk all the time, to the suppressed fury of Chris, and their brooding dialogue has a little bit of Pinter and a bit of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, with Ricky Gervais’s David Brent swimming to the surface when Chris tries snippily reprimanding Glynn for undermining their work in front of their clients. The four characters become increasingly frazzled in each other’s company and the situation isn’t helped by the arrival of dyspeptic and cynical newspaper executive Flo (Jenna Coleman), who has to decide if their story is worth spending time and money on.

An intriguing setup and amusing set pieces

It’s an amusing situation and Maskell exerts a cool control over his cast, although there is something a bit studenty about not actually revealing what this supposedly devastating secret is. Having established an intriguing setup, the movie arguably spins its wheels for a few of its dialogue scenes, though there is wit in its set pieces – particularly a catastrophic game of charades which brings poor Glynn to a breakdown – and the gloomy, violent denouement has impact.

Klokkenluider is released on 1 September in UK cinemas