4 out of 10

Release Date:  1st October 2012 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Simon Phillips (The Last Scout)

Cast: Nick Nevern, Kellie Shirley, Jenna Harrison, Peter Barrett, Roland Manookian, Mark Cooper Harris, Charlie Bond, Lorraine Stanley, Merveille Lukeba, Thomas Worthington with Con O’Neill and Steven Berkoff

Writer:  James Crow & Simon Phillips

Trailer: GBH

Nick Nevern (RISE AND FALL OF A WHITE COLLAR HOOLIGAN) plays a cop on the edge called Damien. London plays a city on the edge. GBH is perhaps the earliest but it certainly won’t be the best film about the 2011 London Riots. Coming across as a countdown to armageddon, we shadow our anti-hero on his beat as he doles out a conflicted form of justice that is a concocted blend of “doing the right thing” and downright vigilantism.  His new partner, WPC Louise (KELLIE SHIRLEY – EASTENDERS) has issues of her own, with an ex-cop father  (Con O’Neill – DANCING THRU’ THE DARK) crippled by a run in with football hooligans.  Much of the conflict comes from Damien’s shady past as an over-active member of a football firm himself.  He still drinks with former associates including Peter Barrett and Roland Manookian (both also co-stars of Rise and Fall Of a White Collar Hooligan) who expect to operate above the law and have Damien wipe their slates clean.  Encounters with bullied school boys, sick pimps, feral rapists, crowd mentality and wife beaters eventually tip our man over the edge when he is implicated in the single event-catalyst that kicks off this film’s version of the London Riots.

The film would be easier to accept if had been executed with any finesse and showcased any convincing performances. Luckily, we’re not quite in the same terrible territory as the Jack Trilogy or Dead Cert, but what we have here is a pretty clunky, confused film.  As confusing as the riots themselves the film piles incident upon incident upon Damien and Louise. The two contrasting police officers end up becoming lovers but there’s no honeymoon period here.  As packed as a copper’s day probably is, the story becomes hard to follow and some very tired and over-used gimmicks like time-lapse photography and fly overs of the London streets only serve to irritate rather than dazzle.  What is most disappointing is Nick Nevern‘s performance. He has proved to be a reliable and exciting actor to watch in most of his previous films, whether being in the lead or a supporting role. So I’m sad to report that he’s been miscast here. He’s met his current limit. His off-kilter and uneven performance here is probably down to other factors like a ropey script, a plot that chops and changes his emotions dragging him back and forth between situations and bad direction. The first time director is Simon Phillips (AIRBORNE), a prolific actor and producer on the British Independent Film scene.  His directorial style is anonymous and it lacks any original flare.  Perhaps, like his acting, he will improve.  What could have been an engrossing character study with social commentary largely comes across as an exploitation flick and nothing more.

4 out of 10: What we have here is an episode of The Bill with ambition. But it is let down by some embarrassing over-acting (spitting and foaming at the mouth – yes that’s you Con O’Neill, doesn’t mean you’re delivering a good performance! Is it the fashion for actors to do this? He’s not the only one.) and a stretched Nick Nevern. There is a pile of confusing story lines, flat direction and a dead script.  As pedestrian as a beat cop.  It’s not the worst film out by a long chalk though. But it had an open goal of an opportunity and it swung wide. Way wide of the mark.

JOE PESCI’s review of GBH – a new slant on a brave but flat and misguided film



One thought on “GBH

  1. JOE PESCI’s review of GBH – a new slant on a brave but flat and misguided film

    A film about the London riots! Remember the London riots (or Riots)? It was one of those big events where there were more stories and opinions than there were people who experienced them. As London burned, and Boris the Mayor enjoyed his foreign holiday, some film-makers saw (quite rightly) that here was an opportunity to tell one of those many London Riot Stories. This is absolutely what low-budget guerrilla film-making should be about – immediate, relevant, controversial. Alas, they chose a quite incredibly drab story to tell. Then told it drably, and slowly.

    Our protagonist, who they’ve only gone and called Damien(!), is a football hooligan from an abusive background who joins the police. (Yes, it’s one of those films where every copper has some tale of woe to explain why he/she joined the force; surely the film-makers should have realised that real-life people with tales of woe just go on The X Factor?) So, yes, he has a bleak back-story, as does the new WPC he thoughtfully befriends (yes, her back-story involves some football hooligans beating up her dad, who was himself a policeman though I’m not sure why he became a policeman). Damien’s boss (Stephen Berkoff in restrained mode (that means he doesn’t shout, which is always sad)) isn’t happy about our hero having ‘baggage’ (we don’t know what Berkoff’s reason for joining the police is either but I bet there’s a murdered hamster involved). Herein lies the problem. Damien does indeed have baggage: he is a crazed thug. His ‘baggage’ is that he’s going around beating people up in cells and intimidating witnesses (curiously this never lands him in any trouble). He is a very bad policeman whose main job seems to be keeping his thuggish mates out of jail, not by encouraging them to take the straight and narrow, but by threatening anyone they beat up. So, yes, you could say he has some baggage. And I bet his arrest targets are abysmal.

    He also seems to know everyone, and everyone knows him. Arguably, this is precisely what good proper community policing is all about. Unfortunately our lovable hero undermines this by ALWAYS SIDING WITH THE BAD GUYS (if they happen to be his friends). Is this perhaps an allegory about police corruption? Or poor storytelling? Even a randomly encountered little kid is able to identify him as a football hooligan. We see the same child later, during the riot, where he has gone over to the dark side. In case we’ve forgotten about him, the director helpfully supplies a flashback so we can re-acquaint ourselves with him, and then resume watching Damien’s disintegration (Nick Nevern looks sad). There’s a lot of flashback in this film, all of it to no effect; in fact it’s detrimental – it may have been more interesting to let us piece together Damien’s past (if we really wanted to) from his present. Once we’ve seen the full back-story it’s enough to make you want to be an X Factor contestant.

    Meanwhile, there are the London riots to look forward to! (Are there any bands called the London Riots?) The event is signified by a countdown structure that the film does its best to ignore. Titles like ‘Three weeks before’, ‘One hour before’ and others appear on solemn black backgrounds but I’m pretty sure that these have been inserted at random points in the narrative as they don’t make sense, sometimes coming in the middle of a scene. And because of all the flashbacks no momentum is built up. Meanwhile Damien is struggling to keep his life together. He’s managed to get rid of one unwanted girlfriend (Jenna Harrison, a silent scene-stealer in Just for the Record) and is working on a new one (they look like twins by the way, make of that what you will), and his jailbird dad is a nasty piece of work, and our hero has just begun to work out that his friends are simply using him as an inside man, a get out of jail free card. Then something happens during the riot which changes everything.

    A rape occurs. Now, rapes occur quite a lot in films, we’re depressingly used to them. The rape which occurs here is in no way salacious, nor gratuitous: it is done in a single shot, with the camera on the victim’s face throughout; there is no cut away until it is done. It is unbearable (in the right way) in that it is horrible, but it is also completely irresponsible in that it is in the film at all. The film is not about rape, it is not about the victim or even the attacker, it is a film about a third party (our hero Damien) who isn’t even in the scene, the idiot. So the scene is there purely as a plot trigger, to push Damien over the edge and introduce the film’s grand finale. But the fact is that he’s so unstable that the grand finale would have happened if someone had vomited over him; the rape (which to be fair was clumsily signalled early on) is ultimately nothing more than a manipulative part of the film’s engineering.

    Had Damien been a more interesting character this might all have been worth sitting through, but despite his best efforts Nick Nevern can do nothing with this solipsistic moron. In fact the script is so dull that no-one makes much of an impression; Kellie Shirley at least sounds like she believes what she’s saying but doesn’t convince as a police officer. Con O’Neill seems bored except when he’s spitting like a rabid dog, and even the usual suspects (Roland Manookian etc) just turn up to show willing. GBH is a massive missed opportunity: an excellent premise flawed by an inadequate storyline and marred by disappointing execution. And it drags on forever.
    3 out of 10

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