One thing you can’t say about I Came By is that it’s predictable. Indeed, Babek Anvari’s contemporary thriller seems to go out of its way to upend the conventions of its chosen genre. The average viewer is pretty unlikely to guess where everything is ultimately headed.
Toby (George MacKay) and his best friend, Jay (Percelle Ascot), are self-styled urban guerillas, who specialise in breaking into the homes of the rich and powerful and decorating their living room walls with that titular line of graffiti. We quickly realise that Toby is a bit of a hypocrite, coming from the kind of privilege he rails so vociferously against. His Mum, Lizzie (Kelly Macdonald), is a comfortably-off psychologist and the family home in London looks decidedly swish, even if Toby never bothers to wash the dishes.
When Jay discovers that his girlfriend, Naz (Varadu Sethu), is pregnant, he decides it’s time to clean up his act and promptly bales out of the double act, so Toby has to go it alone when he breaks into the house of former judge, Hector Blake (National Treasure Hugh Bonneville, for once playing a thoroughly bad egg). Toby discovers something rather horrible in the cellar but his attempts to call out the law to sort things out come to nothing. Blake is a regular squash partner of the Chief Constable, so he’s protected. Toby decides he’ll have to take matters into his own hands…
It would perhaps be unfair to reveal anything else about the plot and I rather admire Ansari’s (and co-writer Namsi Khan’s) dogged determination to resist anything too clichéd. What’s more, I Came By has some interesting points to make about race and privilege. But there are real problems here, chiefly in the storytelling, where no figure is really allowed to come to prominence – the four main stars all seem to be playing bit parts in a pointlessly complicated narrative. There are sizeable time shifts that are not well signalled and some of the occurrences should be filed in the ‘rather unlikely’ category. My eyebrows are raised at several points.
Still, those who like to be constantly surprised may want to give this one a go. It’s arguably worth clicking the Netflix button just to watch dear old Hugh doing some really unpleasant things.