THE LONDON FIRM aka AB NEGATIVE

4.5 out of 10

Release Date: 26th October 2015 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Neil Horner

Cast: Vincent Regan, Seb Castang, Stephen Marcus, Robert Cavanah, Csilla Barath-Basaic, Samantha Glenn, Barry Smart, Jon Campling, Chris Ryman and Roger Ashton-Griffiths

Writer: Allen Beever

Trailer: THE LONDON FIRM

the-london-firmIt’s a shame that the makers were (probably) forced by the DVD distributors to swap it’s interesting title AB Negative, which refers to two contrasting hitmen, for the final one, The London Firm.  It’s a shame because although it’s a competent little gangster movie, this needed all the help it could get to stand out from the pack. The title only serves to make it anonymous. Yet, another liveried, red and white jacketed film for hard men who shop at Asda.

The film itself presents a riddle: two hitmen, the experienced and jaded A (VINCENT REGAN – VENDETTA) and the junior, modern, virtually clueless B (SEB CASTANG – TRAVELLER), are put together on  a job. They are delivered to their next hit in the back of a van, only to found that they’ve been kidnapped by persons unknown in order to discover the whereabouts of some missing contraband. Meanwhile, some hardmen have a card game which is somehow connected to the central events. What is the enigmatic Robert Cavanah (ASSASSIN) role in proceedings?

The film’s central performances are uniformly good, with newcomer Seb Castang having to do much of the donkey work. Vincent Regan can do this type of role in his sleep and it’s nice to see him wake up from time to time to help his opposite number. In the end the over elaborate plan seems a bit pointless considering what most gangsters resort to to recover lost money, drugs, jewels etc. Mind you the boring alternative has already been since 300 times before in less interesting films.  The London Firm may try a few new things, but they’re not tried with any panache or flare. The London Firm is reliable to a fault and like it’s new title, it does very little to stand out. There’s nothing to single out, positively or negatively. It just functions adequately and is a nice place holder for Vincent Regan, who is a fine actor who appears to biding his time (a lot) waiting for Hollywood to pick up the phone.

4.5 out of 10 – A timid, gangster film that has ideas but seems to scared to make a fuss about it. Solid acting keeps you watching.

Second review below by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “THE LONDON FIRM aka AB NEGATIVE

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    Gangsters! In London! Trying to kill each other! Such originality! But just hang on a second, maybe there’s more to it than that this time? Maybe it’s not another trawl through a few strip clubs and illegal gambling dens? It can’t possibly be another cross/double-cross plot involving caricatures with names like Shorty, Big Keith, and the Crusher can it? Well, yes and no.

    So please, before casting it aside as if it’s yet another Ritchie-wannabe, spare a thought for poor old THE LONDON FIRM (not its real name). Here we have a deeply tolerable, thoroughly unassuming, perfectly adequate bit of low-budget film-making. It promises little, and delivers what it promises in an unfussy straightforward way. It is a paradigm of how to make a film which no-one will take any notice of. There’s almost nothing wrong with it, and there’s nothing in it which exceeds (low) expectations. All of which puts it in an odd category – it’s probably the least bad British gangster film without being particularly good either that I’ve seen in a very long time. It is the epitome of mediocre. And the mere fact that I’m waffling on like this indicates just how little there is to say about the film, but I suppose I ought to have a go.

    Three men are in the back of a truck on the way to an undefined operation, under the instruction of a mysterious murderous woman. I can’t be bothered. They cross, double cross, triple cross each other and some card-playing ninnies who are in an unspecified location who have some connection to them. It’s that sort of film.

    According to the credits our protagonists are called A and B (which almost explains the film’s real title AB NEGATIVE – not much better really, but at least it’s different) but are never called that in the film itself. One of them (Vincent Regan) is an old hand at the gangster lark with a code of conduct and a noble reason for getting into his life of crime in the first place, and I think he’s intending to retire after one last job and it’s impossible to over-emphasise how basic a character he is. The same is true for his new associate B (Seb Castang). (Or he might be A and Regan might be B – I really ought to check). Cocky newcomer who thinks he knows it all – and, yes, he does know a few things. The big surprise in these characters is that the writer was able to come up with such solidly standard figures and yet fail to come up with any quirk or idiosyncrasy. It really must take quite some effort to produce two characters so stunningly deliberately unsurprising. Given that, the two actors are exceptional. Their job here is like resuscitating corpses. True, they neither of them are amazingly brilliant in themselves, but in the context of a witless, efficient script they excel. Hang on, I’m doing the scriptwriter a disservice. There is a quirk and idiosyncrasy in B’s (or possibly A’s) character – he is prone to the occasional malapropism at inappropriate moments, which are nicely delivered by Castang. So there’s that at least. Alas, Castang is stymied by having a passing similarity of facial expression to Richard Ayoade. This is not his fault of course, but still, suddenly being reminded of Moss from The IT Crowd at moments of high tension is a bit unfortunate.

    And there are moments of high tension. Well, medium-high. Well, slightly above moderate. The best stuff is when Castang and Regan are arguing / chatting / bonding / fighting in the back of the van of mystery and mayhem. With them briefly is Roger Ashton-Griffiths as a lawyer (and therefore a paedophile) who is bumptious, unctuous and avuncular. And then there’s the lady in the van as played by Csilla Barath, giving a basic evil cow performance. And then there are Stephen Marcus and Robert Cavanah playing cards in their secret lair. I suppose the idea is that the film is a kind of game of chess between these various participants. But they’re all frighteningly uninteresting and the game itself gives only an occasional glimpse of anything approaching curiosity.

    There are occasional verbal flourishes and sparrings which suggest the script may have had theatrical origins, and some of the twists are mildly ingenious but there’s nothing here to get excited about or overly puzzled by. It falls apart the moment you interrogate it (what happened to torturing people to get information? These are bad guys after all), but you probably won’t bother doing that (unless you have to review it) because it’s the sort of film you forget you’ve watched even as you see the final credits go up. The film earns itself a bonus point by using flashback structure as a structure rather than just starting with a flash-forward as a teaser.

    So what can we take away from THE LONDON FIRM? Well, there’s the bad title. And the director can successfully put almost a whole film in the back of a lorry without it feeling that we’re spending most of the film in the back of a lorry because it’s cheap. We also see some decent acting, and we also get to exercise our minds as we try to unravel the plot strands (in crossword terms it’s more of a five minute tea-break puzzle than a full-page cryptic affair). It’s also quite short, so that’s good, if you’ve got other things to do. It’s efficient, brisk, doesn’t outstay its welcome, works well within its restraints, makes just enough sense and succeeds on its own terms. But it doesn’t make a particularly compelling case to exist either. The film-makers prove they can make a decent enough small-scale low-budget gangster film. So should there be anyone looking for someone with such a talent here’s yet another crew to consider. On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone who’s made a genuinely intriguing film with real, vibrant characters, then keep searching.

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