London’s underground world of backstreet bike racing provides the backdrop for gritty thriller, Alleycats.

Named after the social races of these city cyclists, first time director Ian Bonhote’s high-energy film is about a bicycle courier and alleycat rider who witnesses a crime involving a prominent MP and its subsequent violent cover-up.

It is a tense, twisting story, one where the audience never knows who to trust.

Bonhote, who also co-wrote the film, told us: “As a filmmaker I always wanted to find something that was very London.

“I didn’t identify with gangster stuff, I’m not into horror - and the council estate (dramas), I didn’t come from that world. A white, middle-class foreign boy trying to make something like that doesn’t work.”

The answer was the alleycats, a group that the filmmaker fell in with when he moved to London from his native Switzerland and took to cycling around the city.

He said: “It is more the alleycat racing. I like cycling but it is more that tribe. I like couriers. I have been cycling in London since the late 1990s when I arrived. There weren’t that many cyclists. Cycling has completely exploded.”

He added: “I got into this sort of world and found it exciting.”

Bonhote knew early on the alleycat riders made the perfect subject matter for his film, which he started writing back in 2007.

He said: “Here you have got misfits, people from all walks of life.

“You might have a posh kid having a rebellion, you might have a council estate kid who falls into it, you might have some Brazilian dudes, some Latin American dudes, some illegal immigrants.

“All of that just made it that microcosm of people walking together and becoming friends by sharing a passion. That is why I think it is very London as well.”

The director was also well aware that cycling in the capital would be an interesting way to get action into his film, especially on a tight budget.

Filming took place in London locations including Croydon, often with the real world carrying on alongside.

Bonhote said: “You could place the camera on a bike. I’m a really good cyclist and I’m a bit crazy and I’ve shot loads of skateboard videos so I took the camera and I shot with them in the middle of the park. We shot with the tracking vehicle. All of those elements made it really exciting.”

He added: “What really attracted me was the possibility to visually make something exciting and reveal a part of London that people didn’t know. I love the subculture and I love the exciting visuals you could have.”

Alleycats features a strong supporting cast including Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens and Four Weddings and a Funeral’s John Hannah, but the film is anchored by Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson as Danni.

It was important, and entirely natural, for Bonhote to have a strong female lead.

He said: “I am single mum raised. My dad passed away when I was very young and my mum never got together with anyone else. She was twice widowed so me and my brother have got a very strong mother figure. My next film has a female lead.

“I just find women more interesting. In our super-liberal, developed, Western society we still can’t get equal pay etc etc, let alone LGBT rights. The woman’s rights are threatened constantly.

“I know a lot of female couriers. They are in the minority, not the majority, but they are amazing kick-ass women. When you look at Team GB, the women did better than the men.”

It was also important that Danni was a fully fleshed-out character rather than a ‘super-tough’ hero.

“Danni is not super-tough. She sometimes cracks. She has got denial, she has got envy, she has got fears, she has got everything – she is a human being.”

Alleycats is out on Digital Download now and DVD from Monday (August 29).

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