Steps to Heaven" is a British crime drama about a female
protagonist named Suzanne (Katrin Cartlidge) who takes it upon herself
to solve the mysterious death of her boyfriend. Originally a TV movie,
the story is derivative of many superior films where the main character
assumes an investigative role upon a sincere belief that the cops have
closed the case of a murdered love one too early. By any conceivable
standard, "3 Steps to Heaven" is a grievous disappointment;
unless, by chance, you are looking for an experience where the confusion
endured is surpassed only by the corresponding monotony.
"Heaven" initially begins anesthetizing
its audience through a bewildering set of opening scenes that will make
you swear you missed the first half hour. Films often frustrate because
they take far too long to develop and spend vast amounts of time
instructing on the context of the plot. Here, director Constantine
Giannaris steps in the other direction by thrusting a story upon his
audience with essentially no development. It's very much like starting a
novel on page 50.
Despite the preliminary confusion, I was able to
surmise that Suzanne's boyfriend, Sean (Stuart Laing), after a night of
partying and drug dealing worthy of a Hair band tour, was found floating
face down in the Thames River. The London police quickly rule it an
accident, but Suzanne, after walking around naked in her apartment for a
while, smells suspicious circumstances. Through a friend of Sean's, she
finds out that Sean was last seen exiting a Central London nightclub and
entering a car with three minor celebrities. The "3 Steps"
from the title is a nod to the three people from that car.
Since the 3 celebrities were all with Sean shortly
before his death, Suzanne believes that one, or all, of them know the
truth. After a tortuous first 15 minutes, the film evenly divides the
remaining 75 minutes of screentime (except for a brief wrap up ending)
between Suzanne's attempts to track down each of the three and extract
details from them about Sean's death. We learn far more than we ever
needed to about all involved and the film stretches radically to make
the trio seem interesting. Without too much punishing detail, let's just
say that they are all unsympathetic, self-absorbed losers, which does
not distinguish them at all from Sean, who cheerfully doles out coke in
exchange for sexual favors from druggies who can't pay.
At its most exasperating, "Heaven" begins
dropping absurd red herrings that lead to nowhere but frustration.
Permit me one for instance: while tracking the first witness, Suzanne
accidentally shoots some poor Brit in a crowded elevator, who is then
left trampled and bleeding by a panicking herd. Suzanne quickly moves on
to rework the finer points of her plan. Naturally, I assumed this was
some kind of mortifying dream sequence brought on by the anxiety of
having to play detective, but that revelation never came. Instead, the
film plodded on while this rather incredible occurrence remained
unexplained. Eventually I realized that the London police, for some
reason, weren't looking for her, and Suzanne, who up to this point was
the only character with a conscience in the entire movie, wasn't
slightly buggered. Such illogical and meaningless events can only be
explained by a screenwriter's runaway providence.
evidence of how disconnected this film is seeps out when Suzanne
eventually attempts to flog the truth out of one witness by dressing him
up in his own S & M gear and threatening torture. Of course, it begs
the question why one would use another's fetish for sadomasochism
against him or her as a means of "torture." The only common
sense answer is that the filmmaker has a soft spot for laugh-out-loud
irony, but let's not give anyone associated with this charade too much
To be sure, TV movies are often pedestrian; yet this
exercise could have been less of an unequivocal disappointment if it had
the good sense to not take is self so seriously. Crappy US television
crime shows like "She Spies" and "V.I.P" serve a
purpose and caters to an audience precisely because they maintain a
sense of humor about their own silliness. Conversely, "3 Steps to
Heaven" wants to be taken seriously, but the idea of doing so is a
joke in and of itself.