Danny (Freddie Connor) is a nightclub bouncer at The Baseline, a London nightclub, but aside from the scuffles he breaks up on a regular basis, he's not a man who likes to get involved with trouble. His best friend is Paul (Gordon Alexander), who is in debt to their boss, Terry (Jamie Foreman), while Danny keeps his nose clean and is saving up for a nightclub of his own, which at this rate will take a couple of years. But one night, he is standing outside the building when a hitman appears and takes aim at Terry: Danny lunges for the gun, saving Terry's life, and finding that for his boss to be in his debt is not much better than the other way around...
Baseline was the feature debut of director Brendan O'Loughlin, and on the surface looked like any number of British gangster movies of its day, but this was not so much a thriller as it was a drama about how swimming with sharks might well cost you an arm and a leg sooner or later, either financially or indeed literally. There's a heavily morose tone hanging over the proceedings, as if the story is nothing to take any joy in, and when you see what happens to nice guy Danny you'll appreciate that all the more, not to mention what happens to those close to him. Someone has to pay for the bungled hit, you see, and he is sent along with members of Terry's gang to sort the perpetrator out.
This ends with the upstart gangster seriously injured after the kind of clash you get in movies like this - lots of shouting and swearing and threatening behaviour - and Paul shot in the gut, left behind because his associates can't take him with them. He goes to prison, and Danny feels so guilty he cannot visit him there, while Paul refuses to see his girlfriend, and we jump forward six months where Danny meets and falls in love with Jessica (Zoe Tapper) who he encounters in the club, but is really only present to provide him with extra stress in the final act. We then jump forward even further, three years, and Paul is getting out of prison to make good on the promise he makes to his mum that he will stick to the straight and narrow.
As Paul owes money, lots of it, to Terry, you can imagine how this turns out and Baseline is nothing if not predictable. O'Loughlin does manage to work up a spartan look to his drama, so at least it's not overly ornate and overdesigned, and the same goes for his plot, but it's so singlemindedly pessimistic that there's not much fun to be had here, without one joke in the entire ninety minutes that it lasts. You could argue that this is a serious business, and this is nothing if not sincere about the plight of its main character as events close in around him, but take away the excesses of bad language and violence and what you have is a piece better suited to television rather than cinema, not that this is any bad thing, but here speaks to a lack of ambition in some overfamiliar territory. It's professional considering its low budget, though the mood is one of feeling sorry for itself. Music by Nigel Clarke and Michael Csányi-Wills.