1 out of 10

Release Date: 14th September 2011

Director: Ricky Grover

Cast: Ricky Grover, Omid Djalili, Joshua Lou Friedman, Geoff Bell, Roland Manookian, Eddie Webber, Rufus Hound, Derek Acorah, Laila Morse, Lorraine Stanley, Maxwell Laird, Dave Legano, Andy Linden, Michael Smiley and Steven Berkoff with Leo Gregory, Peter Capaldi and Tulisa Contostavlos

Writer: Ricky & Maria Grover


Joe Pesci II informed me the other day that Ricky Grover (LOVE HONOUR AND OBEY) has been playing The Big Fat Gypsy Gangster, Bullah for some time now.  We both think it’s time for him to stop.  Better yet, it may have been better for him to stop before this film got made.  Funny thing still is that I’d have never come across it but whilst on holiday in Cornwall in 2011. I was walking past the local cinema in Falmouth and they were screening it.  I was baffled.  I’d never even seen Bullah as up and coming in any of the cinema magazines or on trailers.  It was just there.  Now I lived in Cornwall for a bit and they would occasionally do this, having been left out of the distribution loop by those Englishers they would screen something really weird like Big Fat Gypsy Gangster, four screenings a day alongside all the blockbusters.  That week they were also screening brit-pic Weekender too!  But I’d already heard of that one, vaguely.  Now, I didn’t have time to see it that day, I think I saw something equally crap called Apollo 16.  And then the holiday was over. Anyway, I’m digressing horribly (or am I just putting off reviewing this extremely whiffy and lazy attempt at a comedy.)

Directed, co-written and starring stand-up comedian Ricky Grover, Big Fat Gypsy Gangster opens with his release from a maximum security prison. Awaiting his arrival are a film crew led by a Mickey Rourke look-a-like called Joshua Lee Friedman (his name in real-life too) who want to document his exploits for a few days.  They follow Bullah around London, hi-jacking a tourist bus, meeting up with his personal psychic, Derek Acorah (playing himself), visiting his Aunt Queenie (LAILA MORSE – EASTENDERS) who violently tells him that the bent cop who put him away (EDDIE WEBBER – THE FIRM) now owns all his former businesses. This sets Bullah on the war path, and involves barely realised schemes involving midget fights.  At one point we visit the farm where they raise the said “little people”.  I can’t remember what else happened but the film also involves appearances by Leo Gregory (THE BIG I AM) as a gay, Michael Smiley (DOWN TERRACE) as mad IRA bomber, Steven Berkoff (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as a Hindu Guru, Tulisa from N-Dubz in a pointless cameo that requires her to sing over the din in a pub to no comic effect and the usually amazing Peter Capaldi (SOFT TOP HARD SHOULDER) as Bullah’s anger management shrink.  Omid Djalili (SEX & THE CITY 2), Geoff Bell (THE REEDS) and Roland Manookian (GBH) play various oppos and henchmen to tired cockney effect.  Framing it as a documentary give it an extra chaotic feel and twinning this with Ricky Grover‘s semi-improvised delivery gave me the impression that the film crew were too slow to catch the ‘odd’ bit of action. Sometimes they were in the wrong place completely because the scene hadn’t been blocked out in advance (a scene in a boxing gym springs to mind), or Grover was too deep in character to notice he wasn’t being filmed anymore.  There’s an air of the self-congratulatory about this film which feels unearned. It’s almost as if the actors were happy drunk or had stuck a load of whiz up their noses and were in that ‘invincible’ stage. Hang on I take that back, I doubt the producers could’ve  stretched to affording such an acting ‘luxury’. Perhaps they all chipped in and bought Grover’s portion or perhaps he’s just ‘high’ on panda pops – orange flavour. I don’t know.

Coming to Bullah cold, it feels like its coasting on past good will for Grover’s appearances on stage or on a television show (I need to research it – actually I can’t be bothered).  Big Fat Gypsy Gangster makes the other faux documentary we’ve reviewed on here, Pimp, look like Stanley Kubrick.  It’s unfunny, unrealistic, over the top, messy and renders the eternal ‘fart’ joke unfunny.  I mean, how is that possible? You can always rely on a fart to get a laugh but Bullah killed it. Now, if Dead Cert was the equivalent of a “name” actor’s Sunday afternoon kick about, Big Fat Gypsy Gangster is the equivalent of their cliquey booze up afterwards before they all drive home to watch Songs Of Praise.

1 out of 10 –  No more Bullah-Sh*t, alright? Zero laughs. Zero fun.

ED’s Note: It’s been eight weeks since I first watched this movie and I’ve been unable to laugh at a single fart I’ve heard or smelt.  This film has clearly damaged me. Ricky Grover killed the fart joke and I want revenge. (12/12/12)

EDITOR’S NOTE: I laughed at my first fart – two days ago (07/01/2014)





    1 OUT OF 10

    Big Fat Gypsy Gangster

    Occasionally an actor directs himself and the results are milestones in cinema history: Olivier in Henry V, Welles in Citizen Kane. And then there are figures such as Branagh, Eastwood and Beatty who can combine the two roles to great effect, if not universal acclaim. And sometimes the director-star also has a hand in the screenplay, and can still produce gold; this is particularly true in comedies; if you think of Woody Allen’s best films (true he also writes, directs and stars in his worst films), Chaplin, Keaton. Big Fat Gypsy Gangster is the latest film to come my way which attempts to join this noble tradition. Starring, co-written, and directed by Ricky Grover (or at least I assume he is the director, for the director is credited as Bulla, the character Mr Grover plays), it is a mockumentary following the fortunes of a film crew documenting the post-prison life of the eponymous Bulla.

    Now, Ricky Grover is a big lad, though I am unreliably informed that he’s a lovely bloke. And I’m not a professional critic (my ‘fee’ for this review was a copy of the film itself), so I am conflicted. Do I (a) rip the film to shreds and risk either upsetting a nice bloke who might beat me up, or (b) lie both to save his blushes and my physical well-being?

    I shall tell the truth and shame the devil, not that I’m suggesting for one moment that Ricky Grover is the devil. But I did not like this film. Alas, I hated it. Intensely. In fact it caused me pain. Mostly earache. There’s a lot of shouting (and Tulisa Contostavlos sings briefly). I mean, a LOT of shouting. In fact, it’s mostly shouting. An alternative title might have been The Very Shouty Sweary Film.

    Now usually, at about this point I might mention something about the plot. Alas, there is none. As far as I can tell, Bulla is released from prison and gets into some scrapes, culminating in a showdown with his nemesis: a corrupt policeman. It’s not even a film constructed from a sequence of sketches or set-pieces, it just sort of drifts. And there’s a dwarf farm sequence.

    There are some good bits. I quite liked Bulla’s henchmen discussing essential oils (though that went on a bit, and can somebody please cast Geoff Bell and Roland Manookian as something other than gangsters? Maybe they could play crime-solving librarians?). And I liked Michael Smiley as a mad IRA bomber. The rest of it – the gypsies, the dwarf farm, Steven Berkoff as a guru, Omid Djalili as a dodgy lawyer, the dwarf farm, the dwarf fights, Derek Acorah as himself (badly miscast), the dwarf farm, is just part of a rambling, incoherent mess. There were probably some good ideas here (‘let’s do a gypsy dwarf farm’ may have been one of them) but everything is either woefully underdeveloped or tediously strung out. Plots are started, forgotten about, lead nowhere. The business with Bulla’s aunt (an Eastenders landlady but with more rude words) could have been a focal point, but it just sort of peters out, returning some time later with an apologetic shrug as if the film-makers (well, Ricky Grover) had suddenly remembered it. And the mockumentary element fails as well, as lots of shots are clearly not made by the mockumentarists.

    The film seems to want to make lots of politically incorrect fun (of dwarfs, foreigners, homosexuals etc), which would have been OK if they’d managed to do so funnily. How do you fail to deal with the comic potential of midgets? Maybe Grover was taking his cue from the over-rated In Bruges which also fails to do midgets properly. Let’s make better fun of the little people!

    Oh the pain of seeing good performers in their worst ever roles (mind you I hadn’t seen Geoff Bell in The Reeds at this point). Djalili, Berkoff, Leo Gregory. Why? I mean, I can understand an actor going off to Hollywood for a big cheque in a bad role, but this? I doubt if they even got paid. It’s not even one of those films where you get the feeling that the actors were having a good time (well a few of them do, like Laila Morse), and there’s nothing to suggest that any of them had any great belief in ‘the work’. A sign of how bad this is, is that Billy Murray is an executive producer, but isn’t in it. He doesn’t even play the Billy Murray role of the bent (in two senses) copper, a role which goes to some bloke I don’t know. Maybe it was the comedy male rape bit that put Murray off. Or the comedy bestiality. Or the bizarre visible penis bit. Whoever Eddie Webber is, he went way beyond the call of duty and is to be commended for it. It’s just a shame that his efforts were part of a pitifully unfunny waste of time.

    But the central problems with this film revolve around its star/director/co-author. Grover’s creation, Bulla, has been knocking around on TV for years without anyone really noticing. I think he turned up on The Eleven O’Clock Show and Comedy Nation, where he was more annoying than funny. But what are we meant to make of him in this film? Are we supposed to like him? The sad black and white lonely montage near the end suggests we’re meant to be shedding a tear (unless it’s meant to be irony), and his devotion to family is clearly meant to be a positive character trait. And his violence and threats are comic after all. But he’s just an annoying pillock. Now, many of the best comedy characters are annoying pillocks (Fawlty, Del Boy, Clouseau), so that in itself is OK. But I don’t think Ricky Grover realises Bulla is an annoying pillock. If he did, Bulla would be a more successful character (by which I mean funny). Grover is charismatic enough but he lacks a decent script, a demanding director and a properly thought-out character to play. Ideally Bulla should be the kind of supporting character who turns up about ten minutes into an episode of a sitcom, does his stuff, leaves five minutes later with viewers thinking ‘he makes this show’. And then there are the black and white bits which I refuse to even describe they’re so lame. And the dwarf farm.

    Of course, in a world where Mrs Brown’s Boys attracts 9 million viewers (including the esteemed editor of this site) maybe I’m wrong, maybe this is a film for our time. Maybe it is a laugh-a-minute riot of raucous guilt-free gleeful comedy. Maybe I just don’t get the comic art of shouting loudly. Maybe the dwarf farm sequence is an inspired piece of surrealism. Maybe Ricky Grover is giving a comedy masterclass unseen since Peter Sellers’ heyday. The only effect it had on me was to transform me into a gypsy-hating racist anti-midget bigot. A little while ago I declared Basement to be the worst film ever made. I’m beginning to wonder if that statement was a little hasty. (Huffs self-importantly and stretches for cultural sustenance from Cockneys vs Zombies).


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