Alleycats murder movie uncovers sub-culture world of London’s illegal bike racing

Masked allecats tear through the streets

Masked allecats tear through the streets - Credit: Pulse Films

Movie makers shooting a murder thriller about the underground sub-culture of London’s alleycat bike racing are in the final throws of crowdfunding to raise the cash before they begin filming later this month.

Ian Bonhote checks East End location for Alleycats

Ian Bonhote checks East End location for Alleycats - Credit: Pulse Films

Director Ian Bonhote and his crew are currently scanning east London for locations after infiltrating the alleycat scene.

His production team, which has set up temporary offices off Brick Lane, has a campaign on the Kickstarter online crowdfunding platform—closing midnight tomorrow—to raise an extra £50,000 for the fast-paced scenes in Alleycats.

The public is being urged to pledge money on Kickstarter in return for a copy of the film, a visit to the set and a chance to win a bike used during the shoot.

Filming short 'proof of concept' for Allecats movie

Filming short 'proof of concept' for Allecats movie - Credit: Pulse Films

“It’s an amazingly democratic way to raise money for film-makers,” Ian said. “You already start building an audience from an early stage in the production process.”

Alleycats is about an underground sub-culture that few people know about, dangerous and not a wholly legal, often racing in busy streets at rush-hour, sometimes involving accidents and even deaths. This has murder, blackmail, politics and corruption peddled into the script.

The cast includes Eleanor Tomlinson, best known for Jack The Giant Slayer and Alice in Wonderland, and John Hannah, known for iconic movies like Four Weddings and A Funeral and Sliding Doors.

Scene set for Allecats movie

Scene set for Allecats movie - Credit: Pulse Films

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It is Ian’s debut feature movie, after a string of hot TV commercials and directing promos for leading fashion designers as well as a documentary for Microsoft.

“Cycling is a passion and I got involved in the underground cycling community,” Ian admits.

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“I befriended couriers who invited me to take part in an alleycat race and became exposed to an entirely different sub-culture.

“They have their own hedonist lifestyles, reclaimimng a freedom in an overly populated city, using the urban landscape without tracks, guidelines or set paths—you just do it.”

Alleycats has been on the drawing board seven years.

Ian wrote a first draft with writer Max Kinnings that just missed out on funding from Film London back in 2009.

Then they learned that Hollywood was about to put out Premium Rush which also features a courier as the lead character.

It wasn’t until the Hollywood “rival” was released that the team realized it was different—so the project was back on its cycle track and they put together a short film as a “proof of concept”.

Swiss-born Ian, who tells inquisitive journalists he’s 98 with a plastic surgeon who makes him look 37, arrived in Britain in the late 1990s, settling first in the Hoxton artist colony, then buying “a wrecked mews house” opposite the Jeffrey Museum nearby. He later moved with his wife and two “born and bred Swiss Hackney” sons to Stoke Newington.

A bike courier in the story he is filming stumbles across the murder of a young woman while delivering a package and finds himself in danger, realising the perpetrator is a prominent MP. The courier sets out to blackmail him, but is then targeted while taking part in an illegal bike race by a hit man, the MP’s ‘fixer’. Bribery and corruption is unearthed in the courier community and beyond.

East London is a popular location for alleycat races, apparently—so it provides an authentic setting for filming.

“London itself is a ‘character’ in the film,” Ian tells you. “It is omnipresent, not just locations, but in all elements of the plot, such as CCTV cameras, couriers, traffic, civilians, police and government, all set against familiar landmarks for audiences around the world.”

Several scenes are being shot around Bethnal Green and Shoreditch, including a school, a car-repair yard and a greasy-spoon café. Ian also has his camera sights set on Whitechapel and Petticoat Lane with their “contrasting cultures and clash of money versus poverty.”

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