"For those who take solace in the tactile pages of communal literature, breaching the unspoken rules of book care calls upon the ‘thin blue line’… and what of defacing such valued texts? For that, there is Zero Tolerance.
Tom Pollock directs this tale of anger and vexation, following an anonymous male who becomes enraged by people who underline passages in Library books. One particular felon – who uses incriminating pale blue ink, sends him over the edge. He follows clues left in the book to hunt the vandal down. Embarking on a dark and twisted mission, he attempts to make her realise the awful crimes she has committed.
The protagonist is played perfectly by Michael Smiley (Down Terrace, Kill List, Spaced), who also narrates. It is an eerie, intrusive and voyeuristic film which sees Smiley’s character creep around watching his victim. This is at times uncomfortable to watch. However, at other points I found myself laughing – is it worrying that I can empathise with this character? I believe you’re meant to see some of yourself in him, it’s easy to emphasise… only so long as they scribbled in at least a third of the book. Everybody gets overly angered by pet peeves but Pollock does it to satirical effect and makes the film rather funny.
The film is enjoyable to watch, not taking itself too seriously, making people laugh at its deadpan delivery of something that should be worrying to witness. What the film comes down to is that feeling we all get when you feel like you could literally inflict torture upon someone for the tiniest things. I think it is the British humour that shines; American comedies seem to be more overstated, broad and occasionally slapstick. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, when done correctly “in your face” comedy can be funny (Charlie Chaplin, Chuckle Brothers, etc), Zero Tolerance is far more straight-faced. Which can be misunderstood a lot of the time.
There is a desaturated colour tone throughout the film which plays hand-in-hand with its content, themes and the black comedy genre. By playing with conventions it emphasizes the deadpan humour, by having the whole film dark and morose, it makes the film look as if it’s being deadly serious about the deadly actions taking place. Being a little over 10 minutes long, Zero Tolerance gets its point across well, I’m pretty sure after watching this people might think twice about defacing property that isn’t theirs – especially if it’s a book!"
- review by Joe Humphreys @illustratedjoe