LORDS OF LONDON

6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 6th January 2014 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Antonio Simoncini  & Craig Viveiros (The Liability / Ghosted)

Cast: Glen Murphy, Giovanni Capalbo, Serena Iansiti, Christopher Hatherall, Joe Egan and Ray Winstone

Writer: Antonio Simoncini & Craig Viveiros

Trailer: LORDS OF LONDON

Lords-Of-London-Ray-Winstone-shootersHere’s an unusual one. An ethereal, supernatural gangster flick that works in many respects. Coming from the same team that made the floppy Fathers of Girls, they’ve tried something a little different again with more success. Disguising a thoughtful film about regrets as a rival to Sexy Beast or Snatch is a interesting marketing ploy as after five minutes in, it’s clear to everybody that this is not at all like those films. So why dress it up as a generic crime flick? Everybody that happens on it will be disappointed but it still got someone to buy it, yeah? Cynical way to treat this oddity.

Ex-London’s Burning actor Glen Murphy plays a London mobster is shot and awakes to find himself transported back to rural Italy to put some wrongs right. It seems that he’s there to stop his evil father (CHRISTOPHER HATHERALL and RAY WINSTONE) from ruining his mother’s life by marrying her – and as result cancelling his own birth.  The Italian setting and local cast is a definite plus and the slow plot actually nice to watch unfold. Flashbacks to Glen’s childhood give Ray Winstone his only chance to channel the type of mad bastard he made his name with, he’s had in years. His presence in one or two extended scenes give the film more gravity and he’s effortlessly matched by Hatherall as the younger version.

Don’t be put off by the misleading title but Ghostly Gangster wouldn’t have exactly sold many DVDs either but it’s great to see such an unsual take on a well-trodden genre. Harold Pinter would have been proud. Who’d have thought that Glen Murphy from London’s Burning would have such an unusual film in him.  He’s better than he’s ever been (which is kind of feint praise) but still a compliment here.

6.5 out of 10 – A unique crime film that’s not afraid to try something new and dangerous. It’s just bad news that it’s been disguised as something for the Essex Boys massive. Expect to see 100s of copies in a Cex near you. Recommended for Ray and Italy and the sad resolution.

PS: It could go down as having the most misleading cover art / poster of all time though.

Review by Matt ‘Scum of Halifax’ Usher down below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “LORDS OF LONDON

  1. Rarely has the suggestion that you shouldn’t judge a book (or DVD) by its cover been truer. A man in a trench coat dominates the picture. He is armed with two hand guns. The face is that of Ray Winstone, though I suspect the body may not be his (unless the miracles of modern image manipulation have been brought into play). Behind our moody gunslinger Big Ben and St Paul’s poke out at a slight angle – it’s as if Winstone and those two other great London icons are putting up a bit of a fight against a fairly strong gale. The tag line is ‘In this city, crime is a family business’.

    As a public service, I make the following observations. Ray Winstone is not the star of the film – that honour goes to Glen Murphy, who can be seen on the back cover of the DVD underneath a picture of a gun-toting Ray Winstone and sandwiched in between a picture of a woman with a gun (total screen time: less than a minute) and another picture of Ray Winstone (gun-less but looking like his eyes are more dangerous than bullets anyway). As far as I can remember, Winstone at no point uses guns, relying instead on fists and swearing, generally picking on innocent / helpless characters, mostly his wife. No-one visits any recognizable London landmark, mainly because the film is set almost entirely in Italy. As for the slogan, it does at least indicate that a criminal family is central to the story. I can’t remember if he wears the coat.

    So, having dealt with what isn’t in the film, the prospective viewer is entitled to ask what is. It’s a fantasy-ghost-story-travelogue-family-saga-gangster-thriller thing, and is about as confusing and fragmented as that description suggests. Glen Murphy is our hero, a notorious London gangster boss who gets killed in the opening shots of the film. As the film unwinds we discover he’s a less than lovable chap and deserved it. But there’s another plot strand, a series of flashbacks in which we see his younger self (played by a cute little kid) as he’s shepherded about by his vicious gangster dad (Winstone) who beats up and shouts at everyone he encounters. So Murphy was fated to be a bad lad all along and it’s not really his fault. But lo! the boy is very innocent looking – is it possible that there’s a chance of redemption for him? And why has adult Murphy woken up covered in blood in 1950s Italy? Is this Heaven? Obviously for some, Italy and Heaven are interchangeable, but Murphy never seems to cotton on to the ‘I’m-dead-and-have-been-transported-halfway-across-Europe-and-back-in-time-as-an-invisible-ghost-who-can-only-be-seen-by-one-man-who-unbeknownst-to-either-of-us-(to start with anyway)-is-my-granddad-and-I-don’t-realise-I’m-dead’ element of the story. Murphy hangs about a village and takes an interest in a pretty Italian girl and her pretty English boyfriend. Alas the boyfriend is not a paragon of chivalrous gentlemanly behaviour, and is, in fact, a total young Ray Winstone (alas, they didn’t get Ray to play the younger character – that might have been a more interesting challenge), and Murphy is perving on his parents’ courting days. Is there a chance he’s being shown these scenes so he might somehow intervene? Or even learn the error of his father’s ways and find a way for the sins of the father to be repented by the son? Or does everything turn out for the best anyway regardless of whether anyone does anything or not? (Clue: the last one.)

    This is a very odd, very frustrating, missed opportunity. The fact that it isn’t a gangster runaround is quite agreeable. But it’s a failed fable, with little mystery after the first few minutes or so. Winstone’s presence upsets the balance, and Murphy, decent actor though he is, doesn’t look like he’s important enough to be the film’s focus. He spends his time running about the (very pretty) Italian countryside looking a bit exasperated, has a chat with the only person who can see him (it’s all a bit Big Bird / Mr Snuffleupagus) then goes off and watches his future mum mope over his future dad’s misdeeds.

    The basic story (gangster realises he’s doomed to endure a cycle of violence but has an opportunity to try to change things) is pretty sound (and somewhat more challenging than the standard Essex gangster storyline: sell drugs, argue, get killed) but isn’t developed. Murphy’s character watches, does nothing, doesn’t seem to cotton on, then it’s all OK somehow (unless I missed something terribly important – which is possible).

    I don’t necessarily object to a film being stuffed with clichés, but to show we’re in Italy we get Verdi on the radio, Catholic crosses all over the place, families dancing merrily in the street, it’s like a bad remake of Cinema Paradiso. But the real problem is Ray Winstone. Partly it’s the fact that he has very little screen time. Even so, his performance may best be described as ‘Ray Winstone doing a Ray Winstone impersonation’. The scene where he’s eating (and not enjoying) dinner reminds me of the editor of this site impersonating Mr Winstone. It’s a caricature, albeit extremely accurate (as it should be) and it skews the film’s whole focus: his presence is meant to haunt the film, not hijack it. Meanwhile, the Italian scenes are maybe a bit too pretty and look like they’ve come straight out of an advert for Dolmio. The 1960s London scenes are appropriately drab whilst the contemporary London scenes are thankfully brief and look like an afterthought.

    On balance there’s a lot more wrong than right. The story is a mess, the big question – how can our hero make this right? – is never answered, and the film is hampered by having an OK leading man overwhelmed by the guest star. I’d give it points for trying to do something a bit unusual (though Charles Dickens got there first), but next time Glen Murphy wants to go to Italy can we just have a whip round and send him there on holiday please?

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