RISE AND FALL OF A WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN

6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 10th August 2012 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Paul Tanter: (No Easy Days (TV) / He Who Dares 2 / Meet The Firm – White Collar Hooligan 3 / Shame The Devil / He Who Dares / Hooligan Wars / Essex Boys Retribution / White Collar Hooligan 2 / Fall of the Essex Boys /Jack Falls)

Cast: Nick Nevern, Simon Phillips, Peter Barrett, Rita Ramnani, Roland Manookian, Rebecca Ferdinando with Ricci Harnett and Billy Murray

Writer: Raheel Riaz & Paul Tanter

Trailer: RISE AND FALL OF THE WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN 

Read Joe Pesci’s review below.>>! (if you dare!)

One thing can be said for Chata Pictures / Press On Features (GBH, The Fall Of The Essex Boys, The Jack Trilogy & The Last Seven) is that the more films they make the better they get.  Its probably obvious that the more films they get bankrolled the more finance they get and the better talent they attract.  Well the first point may well be correct but bafflingly the actors remain the same.  I’m also happy to report that they are improving with practice as well.

Ignoring the fact that the title itself is a blatant cash in on the popularity of Rise Of The Footsoldier this is their best film yet.  And it’s their best film  by a country mile.  This feature shares the same director as the DOA third installment of the Jack Trilogy – Jack Falls and a few of the same actors.  The gulf in quality is massive, having watched them in close succession.  A lot of this film’s success is down to a winning leading man (Nick Nevern – OUTPOST 2), a likeable narration and a convincing script.  Read the Jack Falls review for how sh*t it is.

Our hero leads a simple existence as an unemployed football hooligan.  Unable to find a job, a chance meeting with an old mate (Simon Phillips – AIRBORNE) at a ruck gets him a job as a driver for a gang of credit card fraudsters.  Moving up the ranks swiftly, he find himself getting in too deep.  With the police breathing down his neck to turn grass plus ever dangerous and competitive rival firms encroaching on his life, he begins to look for a way out.  Will he escape with his life?

Rise Of and Fall Of a White Collar Hooligan moves along at a fair clip and it shines a spotlight on an area of  organised crime seldom looked at in cinema.  So it’s not just another tired tale of drug dealing.  Nick Nevern‘s portrayal is realistic and immersive. His predicament and growing fear all too understandable as people around him begin to slip, get killed or reveal themselves to be something else altogether.  Billy Murray (THE BILL) plays close to type as his fifth Mr Big in a row but at least he’s good at it.  Simon Phillips who was the titular tit of the said Jack Trilogy is so much better than usual here.  After this, Airborne and Strippers Vs. Werewolves he’s proving himself to be a talent to watch in Independent British cinema.  Just please no more Jack films.

If you’re not tired of UK gangster movies yet, this is a solid one. Nice performances and a good script set this ahead of anything else these guys have done so far.  It’s a shame the title is targeted at fans of a certain type of movie, the DVD even has sticker on highlighting the presence of Ricci Harnett (28 DAYS LATER), who was the leading man, Carlton Leech in The Rise Of The Footsoldier.  The backers needed the confidence to let this one stand on its own two feet. It’s well shot and scored too.  Not as original as it could have been but you can’t have steak every night, sometimes fish & chips are just what you need. There’s already a sequel to this being filmed. Here’s hoping it sees a return of Roland Manookian (PIGGY) as a very very nasty rival criminal.  He steals the show.

6.5  out of 10 – Solid, dependable, above average UK crime fare.  Ignore the ‘cash-in’ title.  Stupid accountants trying to run a film company.  A great lead performance from lug with a heart Nick Nevern. Probably a talent to keep an eye on. Nick Nevern and Simon Phillips next team up in the latter’s directorial debut, GBH.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

THE REEDS

5 out of 10

Release Date: 3rd August 2012 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Nick Cohen (Doctors (TV) / Eastenders (TV))

Cast: Anna Brewster, Daniel Caltagirone, Scarlett Alice Johnson, Will Mellor, O.T. Fagbenle with Emma Catherwood and Geoff Bell

Writer: Mark A. Galluzzo & Chris Baker

Trailer: THE REEDS 

READ MATT USHER’S STOOOOPID REVIEW AT THE BOTTOM OF THE below OF THE LOWEST OF THE PAGE…>! 

images-7Here’s a great little supernatural thriller set on the Norfolk Broads.  The Reeds‘ plot is nice and tight and the acting is generally good.  Six friends from London head off to East England to hire a boat and spend the weekend in each others’ company. We have a good sample of uptight, relaxed, aggressive and dippy aboard.  No sooner have they hired the boat from a weird local with warnings that ‘the reeds can play tricks on yer’, our heroes are be-set with rain, thunder and lightning, never ending dykes and movement out there in the reeds. You’re left to guess the rest and although this is a fairly generic thriller, I’m sure you’ll find the outcome quite satisfying.  The cast, who are mainly TV actors acquit themselves with aplomb but sadly theres always one who lets the side down. Step forward O.T. Fagbenle (THE INTERCEPTOR). It would seem that the makers reserved all of the bad lines from the script and the dim-witted reactions for his character.  I don’t know how this dumb pretty boy seems to outlive most of his friends, in a situation like this, its just not feasible.  Maybe its not his fault, it would take a pretty expensive actor to be able to energise a role this pathologically vacant. It’s rare that a single performance can render a movie silly and if it wasn’t for the well thoughout story line and the rest of the cast he would have beached the whole thing.

Much is made of the spooky setting with it’s labyrinth of identical waterways and swaying reeds.  The film does well to convey the cut off nature of the region and also sprinkles the plot with drops of paganism and the occult.  As the cast are gradually despatched in imaginative ways we are rarely reminded that this is a no-budget independent movie.  The chases are well shot, the gore is effective, the sound effects are evocative.  The prowling camerawork is good. Only the prelude is shonky and could have been edited out without bothering anyone. The trailer is also rotten, hiding what a good little movie this is.

We’ve been here before of course with movies like Triangle and The Others but it’s not a bad thing to put a spin on other good pics in the genre.  This feels fresh, but its not a game changer.  Geoff Bell’s (ROUTE IRISH) boat yard owner is a great endorsement of the horror staple. You know, the creepy old man who non-chalantly sends the yuppies off to their collective doom with a crusty local accent and a wink.  Just brilliant.

5.5 out of 10 – A neat but generic supernatural thriller with a few fresh riffs on a very well trodden road.  It’s helped out immensely by its creepy Norfolk Broads setting and a ripe Geoff Bell cameo.  Above average DTV material. Not quite cinema-worthy though.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

THE AGE OF HEROES

6 out of  10 

Release Date: 20 May 2011

Director: Adrian Vitoria

Cast: Sean Bean, Danny Dyer, Aksel Hennie, William Houston, Stephen Walters, John Dagleish, Izabella Miko, Rosie Fellner, Sebastian Street, Theo Barklem-Biggs and James D’Arcy

Writer: Ed Scates & Adrian Vitoria

Trailer: THE AGE OF HEROES

The Age Of Heroes is a competent and enjoyable yarn about the origins of the SAS.  Set around their first mission led from the back by Ian Fleming  (JAMES D’ARCY – W/E) during the Second World War in Norway, this is a decent throwback to ‘Dad’ movies like Wild Geese or The Dirty Dozen.  The only upsetting factor is that it’s been made in the 21st Century and the budgets at the disposal of producers nowadays for a film like this are obviously a great deal smaller.  It’s here that The Age Of Heroes is let down, obvious restraints on spectacle hobble what could have been a genuine contender for best British Independent movie of 2011.  Danny Dyer (JUST FOR THE RECORD) is well cast as an opportunist who escapes from the stockade to be a member of Sean Bean‘s (LORD OF THE RINGS – THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING) team of elite soldiers. Having been found guilty for desertion and assault of a higher ranking office, Dyer seizes the opportunity to escape his prison by hitching a ride at gun point with Bean.  Given an “only in the movies” chance to prove himself, Dyer becomes our ‘in’ to the SAS.  There is a Windtalkers style plot to defend a code at all costs too as well as to destroy a massive radar station in the Norwegian wilderness.  Dyer is charged with killing the codebreaker (JOHN DAGLIESH) should he fall into enemy hands.  The trip to Norway is authentic and the inclusion of Aksel Hennie (HEADHUNTERS) as the translator and guide is a bonus. The acting is very good and committed across the board. The limited action sequences are gripping but small scale.  The showdown at the climax is about on the same scale as a minor scuffle in a big budget American equivalent.  This is not a whinge however because The Age Of Heroes plays well to it’s strengths.  The Germans are painted black but are barely present as they would be in real life.  A massacre is particularly effective, adding more depth to the SAS team’s missions and essentially giving us a reason to boo the bad guys.  Sean Bean always sets a standard, and he was born to play roles like this.  His make-up artist needs to be shot though.  He had a visibly white and powdery fave throughout, which was very distracting yet funny.  Danny Dyer reminds us that given a half-reasonable script he can convince as good as the rest.  He’s well-cast and we actually root for him to succeed.

Only an abrupt and rushed ending / epilogue that comes out of nowhere serve to remind us of the budget constraints. That and the small scale but still very good action scenes.  The ending seems glued on from out of nowhere. Did the production plan further scenes but ultimately rushed to film an ending when the money ran out? We’ll never know. But a good ending is important because for the bulk of the film it proves to be a gripping piece of old school entertainment.  This serves to de-rail a film that would be all too easy to dismiss as just another Danny Dyer cheapo.  And that snobby attitude does The Age Of Heroes a disservice.

6 out of 10 – The Age Of Heroes is far from perfect but it is a great example of managing great action spectacles with a low budget.  Danny Dyer reminds us that he can be a vital and at times brilliant actor to watch.  The story is great and the acting good across the board.  The locations are stunning and it hit’s all the right emotional chords. That’s superb news for a DVD that I see in the petrol station 4 for a tenner bin.

**rejoice – joe pesci II enjoyed a Britpic at long last!!! review below!!!

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

BEST LAID PLANS (2012)

7 out of 10

Release Date: 3rd February 2012

Director: David Blair

Cast: Stephen Graham, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Maxine Peake, Emma Stansfield, Lee Ingleby, Sarah Parks, Stuart Wolfenden with Peter Wight and David O’Hara

Trailer: BEST LAID PLANS

UnknownThis imaginative jazz riff on John Steinbeck’s Of Mice Men re-locates the action to the city of Nottingham.  Stephen Graham’s (DOGHOUSE) Danny is the unofficial carer of a giant man child called Joseph played by Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (LOST).  Danny is in essence a good man who’s poverty and station in life force him to do bad things.  So with an increasing regularity he begins to exploit Joseph’s good will to bail him out of one bad situation to the next.  This culminates when local crime lord, Curtis (DAVID O’HARA – CONTRABAND) catches up with the pair demanding payment of an old debt.  Does this sound depressingly familiar?  Well to the main pair’s credit they pull off difficult roles with ease.  The dynamic between the fly, Danny and the loveable Joseph is so convincing.  The film never gets too sentimental or over manipulative. When Danny has to persuade the indestructible Joseph to enter some brutal and illegal boxing matches for Curtis you feel a real pull.  Danny’s debt to Curtis is so big that Joseph has to fight his way through half a dozen bouts.  Dread and the potential for tragedy lurks around ever turn in this movie.

Other plot lines weave their way in and out of the story, Danny meets a working girl (EMMA STANSFIELD), who may be his way out of his downward spiral.  Joseph also takes his first tentative steps towards having a girlfriend when he meets Isabel (MAXINE PEAKE – PRIVATE PEACEFUL) who has cerebral palsy.  These two women shed light on some interesting parts of the leads characters and also serve to cause conflict between them.  An outsider gives Joseph a different perspective on life, showing him just how much Danny relies on him as well and crucially, exactly how much money he is withholding from him from the fights and maybe his government benefits.

The acting, plot and screenplay are all spot on.  Stephen Graham has rarely been better, giving us another Liverpudlian gargoyle to file with Combo from This Is England. I never even realised that Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje was a UK based actor, having only seen him in supporting roles Hollywood movies like GI Joe and The Bourne Identity, and this role has echoes of the late Michael Clarke Duncan‘s John Coffey in The Green Mile.  Perfect casting on all fronts.  Best Laid Plans could have descended into melodrama but everything is believable. The inclusion of organised crime bosses is a touch Hollywood but it’s also the makers credit that even Curtis has a place within the film’s universe.  Nottingham is a fascinating city to set such a tale and mixing familiar sites with the grimy, unpopulated industrial areas is a good look.  Director David Blair has had a long track record of in TV series’ and the odd film.  Best Laid Plans looks like a brave step in a new direction, and based on this I hope gets to offer us more British films about very interesting people in equally interesting situations.

7 out of 10 – A great acting showcase for the two leads.  This more or less takes it’s cues from Of Mice & Men but it isn’t slavish to the source, offering enough variation to be it’s own beast. Recommended wholeheartedly.

SECOND REVIEW BY JOE PESCI II AKA MATT USHER BELOW

WHAT HAVE IS SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

WEEKENDER

4 out of 10

Release Date: 2nd September 2011

Director: Karl Golden

Cast: Jack O’Connell, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Emily Barclay, Ben Batt, Tom Meeten, Stephen Wight, Iain McKee, Reuben Johnson, Sam Hazeldine and Zawe Ashton

Writer: Chris Coghill

Trailer: WEEKENDER 

images-6Weekender has got a brilliant soundtrack and that’s a brilliant plus if early house music is your thing. Impressively it’s a film about the music scene is actually period specific and the makers have done some research. Either that or they had flashbacks to their own memories of which particular  12″s moved the floor.  The warehouses look authentic and the whole production design gives Weekender a much needed boost of credibility.  The layouts and the manner in which the gates are marshalled are all as they were, the decor is spot on. Credit is due to those involved behind the scenes. They really show this up to be a labour of love.  It’s a minor tragedy then that these same period attentive guys didn’t get a grab of the script as they would have drawn red circles around so much of the dialogue.  It’s unfortunate, as the characters keep using modern slang or phrases that have come along since the birth of rave.  Exclamations like “Whassssup!”, “Whatever”, “You feel me?” etc litter the dialogue.  This is a shame because Weekender could have been an authentic experience.  Production values demonstrate that it’s not a half cocked cash-in throughout, so why f*ck up the script?

Here’s the plot: Two chancers; Matt (HENRY LLOYD HUGHES – THE INBETWEENERS) and Dylan???? (JACK O’CONNELL – TOWER BLOCK) are two divs on the hustle. They happen upon a ‘make-cash-quick’ scheme by putting on a rave of their own with some of their fellow stoners.  Tracking down the elusive king of the turntables,Captain Acid (TOM MEETEN – BURKE AND HARE) to headline they begin to make some serious paper.  As these things go, running battles with the police hamper their rise to stardom but until John The Rat (BEN BATT – SHAMELESS) turns up, it’s all fairly predictable.  Intimidating the life out of the boys they see their ready made cash cow get commandeered by the local scum bag.  Friends split up, girlfriends pack their bags, people get high on their own supply.  It’s all here. It’s energetically played and beyond the crap script this could have been the next 24 Hour Party People. Instead it’s just a goofy pretender to the throne.

The trouble with Weekender is that it’s not quite authentic enough for those that were there and yet it’s not quite hip or cool enough to appeal to today’s youthful club goers.  So therefore it renders most of the exercise naff and stale.  Jack O’Connell and crew are watchable enough but I was never convinced that they really felt the music in the film.  These guys were born the year the events onscreen happened funnily enough.

4 out of 10 – A nice try at capturing an important period in club land. A modern script undoes some great work by the soundtrack compilers and the set designers.  Almost authentic. Predictable to a fault as well.

See Joe ‘what’s a disco biscuit then?” Pesci II’s review below…

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

SCREWED (2011)

5 out 10

Release Date: 3rd June 2011

Director: Reg Bayliss (Anti-Social / Psychosis / Joy Division)

Cast: James D’Arcy, Frank Harper, Kate Magowan, Andrew Shim, Cal MacAninch, Ray Panthaki, David Hayman, Doug Allen, Tony Jayawardena, Martin Hancock, Everal Walsh with Jamie Foreman and Noel Clarke

Writer: Ronnie Thompson & Colin Batts

Trailer: SCREWED

UK prison movies seem to be becoming the new ‘gangster movie’.  This is the third in twelve months along with Offender and Ghosted.  Whilst all three are competent, its only the superior Ghosted that stands out and I’m sorry to report that that isn’t for a good reason. But read the Ghosted review to find out why.  Screwed guards the middle ground and is told from the prison officers’ or screws’ point of view.  Based on an autobiography by a former screw, Ronnie Thompson, this crams in so much incident that it makes your average stretch of porridge seem like ten episodes of Miami Vice.

The story follows ex-soldier Sam (JAMES D’ARCY – W/E.), an Iraq veteran who suffers from survivor’s guilt.  Unable to find a suitable job he gets co-erced into applying to be a screw by his wife.  He soon learns the tricks on the wings and also how bureaucracy falls on the side of the prisoner.  We see a good officer framed by a con for unnecessary violence just so that he can get the privileges he was used to at the last prison he was based at.   The warden is a career climbing, slimy politician (DAVID HAYMAN – THE NEAR ROOM).  He finds his hands are tied when trying to do his job when tackling a small circle of high ranking cons lead by Truman (NOEL CLARKE – HUGE).  Fellow screws are friendly but are basically worn down by the job to care about making crusades, especially head prison officer, Deano (FRANK HARPER – ST. GEORGE’S DAY).

Screwed is well acted and a competently told story but it feels stale. It’s following in the footsteps of one of the best prison movies ever made, Jacques Audiard’s Le Prophet.  Anything as pedestrian as this or the other two UK efforts mentioned have their work cut out to entertain.  The cast is brilliant across the board, even the unreliable Jamie Foreman (IRONCLAD) is really well cast and pulls off his role as one of the officers.  The main problem is that Sam doesn’t gain our sympathy or trust. He’s a wife beater (KATE MAGOWAN – STARDUST) and hardened drug taker due to his personal stresses but he’s a hard character to be onside with. When he uncovers a conspiracy inside the prison it’s more a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  Or has it really come to the point where our cinematic heroes have to be rotten to women and emotionless coke fiends? Maybe.  At least this is a vast improvement on Offender (there are no English Franks to upset the acting equilibrium) but hasn’t got the engrossing characters seen in the superior but flawed Ghosted.  James D’Arcy as good as he is, is too posh to play hard men.  A problem I also had with his W/E co-star Richard Coyle in last week’s UK remake of Pusher.

5 out of 10 – Competent but let down by a plot that feels the need to make us go wow at the drop of a hat. It tries not to bore you but it ends up being very repetitive.  Good acting, good cast. OK film.

Review by Joe Pesci II below.>>!

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

JOHNNY ENGLISH 2 – REBORN

4 out of 10

Release Date: 7th October 2011

Director: Oliver Parker: ( St Trinians 2 / St Trinians / Dorian Gray (2009) / The Importance Of Being Earnest (2002) / The Ideal Husband / Othello (1995))

Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Dominic West, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Kaluuya, Tim McInnery, Stephen Campbell Moore, Benedict Wong, Mark Ivanir, Togo Igawa with Gillian Anderson and Richard Schiff

Writer: Hamish McColl

Trailer: JOHNNY ENGLISH 2

I found the first Johnny English about as funny as Schindler’s List and I’m no Nazi. So succeeding in being funnier wouldn’t be such a tall order but a requirement.  This sequel was all but inevitable from billionaire entertainer Rowan Atkinson (LOVE ACTUALLY) who does something fresh and new once every twenty five years or so.  Unusually it has some invention and the occassional section is very funny.  Gone is Johnny English’s hapless co-hort Boff (played by BEN MILLER in the first film) and in is fit young thing Daniel Kuluuya (CHATROOM).  This does nothing to improve the gambit but having our doltish herb face off against a more formidable foe than last time and a string of good running jokes, Johhny English 2 delivers on it’s weak promises.

Gillian Anderson (SHADOW DANCER) and Dominic West (THE WIRE) put on their game faces as the put upon superiors continuously daunted by this man-child who is brought in from the cold to save the world once more. Introductory scenes set in a buddhist monastery are particularly comic.  It’s a shame that Rowan Atkinson never stretches himself beyond his limited repertoire of this, Mr Bean and assorted one note cameoes from best-bud Richard Curtis.  he’s obviously a tremendously gifted physical comedian who has sat on his laurels near the top for far too long, purely because he can.  This sounds like sour grapes but as a fan I want more than the minimum. Albeit an improvement on the first Johnny English and a certain victory over Mr Bean 2 this is still warmed over scraps based on good will for his fondly remembered credit card advert series where his spy first appeared.

Johnny English 2 delivers but what’s expected by his audience is the equivalent of a supermarket brand cokel. Sweet, forgettable and cheap.

4 out 10 – Funny but lazy. An improvement on the first Johnny English film but that was a turd.  This is wholly palatable.

WHAT HAVE IS SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

  • Rowan Atkinson: Mr Bean (TV), Keeping Mum, Mr Bean 2, Love Actually, Scooby Doo, Rat Race, Maybe Baby, Mr Bean, The Lion King (voice), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hot Shots 2, The Witches, Blackadder 1 – 4 (TV),  The Tall Guy, James Bond – Never Say Never Again, Not The Nine O’Clock News (TV)
  • Dominic West: The Affair (TV), Testament of Youth, Pride (2014), John Carter, The Awakening, Centurion, Punisher – War Zone, 300, The Wire (TV), The Forgotten, Chicago, Rock Star, 28 Days, The Gamble, True Blue, Richard III (1995), Surviving Picasso
  • Rosamund Pike: Return To Sender, Thunderbirds (TV) (voice), Gone Girl, What We Did On Our Holiday, Hector and The Search For Happiness, A Long Way DownThe World’s End, Jack Reacher, Wrath Of The Titans, Made In Dagenham, Surrogates, An Education, Doom, Pride & Prejudice (2005),  James Bond – Die Another Day
  • Daniel Kaluuya: Babylon (TV), Kick Ass 2, Welcome To The PunchChatroom, Cass, Skins (TV)
  • Tim McInnerny: Spooks – The Greater Good, New Tricks (TV), Black Death, Dr Who (TV), Spooks (TV), Severance, Casanova, 102 Dalmatians, Rogue Trader, Notting Hill, 101 Dalmatians, Richard III (1995), Erik The Viking, Blackadder (TV)
  • Stephen Campbell Moore: The Lady In The Van, The Ones Below, Man Up, Season Of The Witch, The Bank Job,  The History Boys, Bright Young Things
  • Benedict Wong: Kick Ass 2, Hummingbird, Prometheus, The Lady (2011), Moon, Largo Winch, Sunshine (2007),  A Cock and Bull Story, Code 46, Dirty Pretty Things, Grow Your Own
  • Mark Ivanir: A Late Quartet, 360, Holy Rollers, Undisputed 3, Undisputed 2, Schindler’s List
  • Togo Igawa: Speed Racer, Memoirs Of a Geisha, The Last Samurai, Code 46, Just Like a Woman
  • Gillian Anderson: The X-Files (TV), The Fall (TV), Hannibal (TV), Robot Overlords, Mr Morgan’s Last Love, Shadow Dancer, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, A Cock and Bull Story, Straightheads, The Last King Of Scotland, The X Files 2, The House Of Mirth, Playing By Heart, The Mighty, The X Files
  • Richard Schiff: Man Of Steel, Fire With Fire, Made In Dagenham, The Infidel, Last Chance Harvey, The West Wing (TV), Ray, Doctor Dolittle, Deep Impact, Jurassic Park 2, Volcano (1997)