7.5 out of 10
Release Date: 22nd August 2014
Director: Gabe Turner (Class of ’92)
Cast: Harley Sylvester, Doug Allen, Jay Simpson, Vas Blackwood, Tony Denham, Paul Reynolds, Martin Hancock, Charley Palmer-Rothwell, Melanie Gutteridge, Jumayn Hunter, Dorian Simpson and David Essex with Richard Blackwood and Lorraine Stanley
Writer: Gabe Turner
Trailer: THE GUVNORS
TO BE PROOFREAD: The Guvnors is a variously impressive drama about the legacy left behind by an ex-Top Boy (or lead football hooligan) played by Doug Allen (THE FIRM). Where most low-budget films about hooligans either fail to feature hooligans or look beyond hero worship, this film gets to the heart of the matter and tackles the eternal question – when you lead a life of violence can you truly turn your back on your past? What effect did your past actions have on those around you, those you left behind and what kind of mark do you leave on those in your present. Whilst the plot follows a pretty simple road it offers more than the run of the mill hooligan film by not falling into the same traps. It narrowly succeeds in having it’s cake and eating it by providing audiences with the violence and vicious fights whilst also offering up complex characters.
Mitch (DOUG ALLEN) turned his back on his football firm ‘The Guvnors’ in the 1980s. He’s now married with a young teenage son. He’s also the director of a company that looks like an ad agency. The reason for his sudden departure appears to be the reason for the fall of the group and some of the other members still hold grudges. Meanwhile, Adam (HARLEY SYLVESTER) runs today’s streets and after a run in with a local cop who says that he’ll never have the same level of cred as The Guvnors ever had, he decides to seek out the former members to reinforce his rep. Only he gets more than he bargains for when the old guard reform and stand up to him and his young crew. Old scores and new vendettas are created forcing the main characters to make some very drastic life and death moves.
Most of The Guvnors rings true thanks to an above average script and some very good lead performances. Particular kudos goes to musician Harley Sylvester in his first cinematic role. His villainous Adam is a complex and unlikely anti-hero – one minute cutting a girl’s face with a stanley knife, only to be seen helping his young brother ride his bicycle in the next. He’s an evil and ghoulish character who at times exposes what a lonely and scared young man he is. He’s fantastically cast and when some potentially melodramatic revelations land in the plot, he ably transcends the pitfalls by delivering a note perfect performance. As we all know, a film of this type wins or fails according to how effective the villain is – potentially good films like Offender or The Fall of the Essex Boys were completely ruined by a single actor (step forward English Frank! and Jay Brown!) Doug Allen matches Harley Syvester in a potentially one-note role. He gives his Mitch unexpected depths aided by a series of flashbacks that are key to the present day situation. Further down the cast list familiar faces like Paul Reynolds (PRESS GANG) and Lorraine Stanley (TOP DOG) work miracles with slender material. Elsewhere, David Essex (TRAVELLER) casually walks off several scenes as the patriarch of The Guvnors.
The Guvnors proves that there’s still life in tired material. It proves that there’s still room for the perfect football hooligan movie. That there has been so many bad or fakes ones on the market (yes that’s you Paul Tanter and Simon Phillips) its a very pleasant surprise to find one film that has taken it’s brief seriously and delivered on it’s promise of being a realistic and thoughtful film about the affects hooliganism and violence can have on normal lives. Deceptively titled and packaged as yet another cheap rip-off of ID or The Firm this is a rewarding drama that only falters occasionally. What stops The Guvnors becoming a future classic is a feeling that some material has been lost in the edit. One particular plot line concerning Mitch’s school bully son that seems to get abandoned two-thirds of the way through and there’s an unresolved murder/attack in the flashbacks that isn’t fully explained (or is it just me). It borders on the melodramatic at times and the open ending feels underpowered. These points are small potatoes compared to crimes against viewers in search of decent movie about footie firms though. Forget The Hooligan Wars, White Collar Hooligan sequels and the miss-titled Dangerous Mind of a Hooligan (a good film about bank robbers not football or hooligans!)
7.5 out of 10 – Gripping, interesting and dramatically sound at last we have the first ‘real’ film about football hooliganism since Nick Love‘s remake of The Firm. Great lead performances from a committed and on point cast. Recommended!
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Harley Sylvester: Half Time and Down
- Doug Allen: Anti-Social, We Are Monster, Sniper 5, Ghosted, The Firm (2009), Gangster No.1
- Jay Simpson: Rearview, The Magnificent Eleven, Shifty, Hush Your Mouth, Beautiful People
- Vas Blackwood: Rancour, We Still Steal The Old Way, Cryptic, Meet The Firm – White Collar Hooligan 3, Essex Boys Retribution, It’s a Lot, White Collar Hooligan 2, Offender, Mercenaries, Creep, Rollin With The Nines, Mean Machine, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Lenny Henry Show (TV)
- Tony Denham: Gunned Down, Age of Kill, Bonded By Blood 2, Half Time and Down, We Still Kill The Old Way, The Hooligan Factory, Essex Boys Retribution, Vendetta, White Collar Hooligan 2, Fall of the Essex Boys, St. George’s Day, Turnout, The Shouting Men, Revolver, The Football Factory
- Paul Reynolds: Croupier, Blue Juice, Press Gang (TV), Let Him Have It, Slipstream, Castaway (1986), Beastmaster
- Martin Hancock: Screwed (2011), Coronation Street (TV), Trauma, Defiance, Hell To Pay, 24 Hour Party People
- Charley Palmer-Rothwell: Legend (2015), It’s a Lot
- Melanie Gutteridge: The Bill (TV), Long Time Dead, G:MT – Greenwich Mean Time
- Jumayn Hunter: Half Time and Down, Scintilla, Borrowed Time, Dom Hemingway, I Anna, Quartet, Piggy, Cherry Tree Lane, Attack The Block, Eden Lake
- Dorian Simpson: Half Time and Down
- David Essex: Traveller, Eastenders (TV), The River (TV), Silver Dream Machine, Stardust (1974), That’ll Be The Day, All Coppers Are..
- Lorraine Stanley: Suffragette, The Hooligan Factory, Top Dog, The Hooligan Wars, He Who Dares, Essex Boys Retribution, GBH, Made In Dagenham, Cass, London To Brighton
- Richard Blackwood: Outside Bet, Anuvahood, The Richard Blackwood Show (TV)