3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 16th October 2015

Director: Steven Nesbit (Gloves Off)

Cast: Steven Berkoff, Bernard Hill, Elliott Tittensor, Brad Moore, Geoff Bell, Oliver Cotton, Charlotte Hope, Freema Agyeman, Gary Cargill, Sydney Wade, Dom Monot with Keith Allen, Steve Evets and Greta Scacchi

Writer: Steven Nesbit

Trailer: North V South


The makers of North V South have bothered to conjure a half-decent plot of sorts. It’s a shame then that despite the prescence of some reliable actors, there’s no flare or energy expended here. It’s mainly notable for seeing Steven Berkoff (RED 2) in a rare leading role. As Britpic fans will have noticed, he’s been delivering a string of cameos to low-budget filmmakers for some time now. So it’s good to see him earn his money with extended screen time.

The top firm from North meets up with their opposite number from the South. At the meeting, loose cannon from the South, Gary Little (BRAD MOORE – MONTANA) murders John Claridge’s (BERNARD HILL – DOUBLE X) best mate which kicks off a war of paranoia. The two teams line up as Berkoff, Keith Allen (SHALLOW GRAVE), Geoff Bell (THE BUSINESS) and Moore. From the North there’s Hill, Oliver Cotton (THE DANCER UPSTAIRS), Freema Ageyam (DR WHO) and Elliott Tittensor (SHAMELESS). Little does anybody know, that somehow and quite randomly, the latter is seeing  Vic’s (Berkoff) daughter (CHARLOTTE HOPE – I MISS YOU ALREADY). The lovers are working on borrowed time because Brad Moore has discovered their secret. So the tribes go to war in slow motion.

Acting aside, with a particularly good turn from Keith Allen and a reasonably well though out plot, this fails to live up to its promise. With the actors the filmmakers have managed to draw in you’d expect to see a war in progress. But beyond the front line of top men, there’s little evidence of a criminal empire to control. The sub-plot involving the young lovers is a bit insipid too. Elliott Tittensor is miscast as a ‘mob’ enforcer as he’s too small, neat and polite to convince anybody that he could rough them up if they were light that week on paying protection money. Brad Moore is introduced in the credits but we already know him from Montana and The Search For Simon. He is way over the top here and has definitely picked wrong role to showcase his skills as he’s way better in the two aforementioned films.

The plot also includes a child assassin who doubles as a waitress for Bernard Hill. Freema Agyeman is largely wasted in her first film role as a female mob enforcer who’s made to babysit the kid.  Oliver Cotton is underused too, so this is largely Berkoff, Tits and Moore’s show. The lack of budget doesn’t help or convince. So we’re left with a floppy, foul-mouthed piece which seems to think a dose of cartoon-violence will save its bacon. An extra dopey duel-narration from the lovers tops up the quota of bad ideas, exposing many of the film’s script weaknesses.

3.5 out of 10 – Straight-forward yet underpowered gangster film with a solid cast. It’s a shame some of these actors couldn’t have been assembled for a better film.

Second review by Joe Pesci II below. He’s a real gangster you know…



One thought on “NORTH V SOUTH

  1. Review by Joe Pesci II aka Matt ‘The Shusher’ Usher

    Poor Freema Agyeman. Some years ago she was launched as the new Doctor Who companion amid much (perfectly reasonable) fanfare. In the show she had a sister who made sporadic appearances. Fast-forward nine (good grief) years and ex-sister Gugu Mbatha Raw is starring opposite Will Smith, whilst Agyeman is making her film debut in this rubbish. But have no fear! She already has another role lined up! In a Jonathan Sothcott opus. Oh showbiz you cruel creature…

    But hang on am I being snobbish and disdainful of NORTH VS SOUTH when it might actually be pretty good? Being a low-budget British gangster film isn’t automatically proof of direness. Is it?

    NORTH VS SOUTH ambitiously attempts to tell three (supposedly interweaved) stories against a single backdrop: a grand summit meeting, the first for years/generations/eons between the two great master-criminal networks which organise all organised crime in our fair isles (or England, at least). One side comprises the South: led by Steven Berkoff whose acolytes include Keith Allen, Geoff Bell and Brad Moore. And then there’s the North: Bernard Hill, Oliver Cotton, Freema Agyeman and Elliott Tittensor. How the producers got this lot together is a matter for speculation, but it can’t have been because of the quality of the script (it’s not terrible, just very, very, very average – if Paul Tanter had written it, it would have qualified as impressive, but he didn’t).

    As for the tripartite-story-structure, first we meet Steve Evets playing a clown and driving his young daughter somewhere (she’s played by Sydney Wade (also, arguably, a former Doctor Who companion (sort of), and maybe the best thing in the film). The call of nature takes them to a miserable-looking motel. Evets moans as he doesn’t want to have to buy a drink just so his daughter can go to the toilet. But it later transpires he’s best buddies with the establishment’s owner (Bernard Hill), yet he seems oblivious of the fact during his scene. It’s like the scriptwriter only realised this after Evets had been killed (by Brad Moore, who is the second focus of the film (more, anon)) and couldn’t be bothered to revise the script. That’s a minor spoiler as it happens really early on. Meanwhile the daughter, her ablutions done, finds her dad dead, runs off and hides under the table in the gangster pow-wow, where she hears lots of plotting and counter-plotting. On being discovered by the Northerners, she is given to Agyeman, who is tasked with training her in the ways of the female assassin (it’s basically Nikita meets Leon, or at least, it wishes it was, but without any Frenchness, style, or self-conscious cinematography).

    Plot strand two features Brad Moore. He’s the cocky, oiky young hooligan gangster who has no time for old-timers. Having witnessed the fragile peace break out betwixt the warring tribes, he sees an opportunity to bring down and replace his own boss (Berkoff) whilst making it all look like it was Hill’s doing. Moore is adequate as the thuggish oik, but it should be a Richard III part (i.e. he does terrible things but charismatically charms the audience), and Moore doesn’t bother with the charisma.

    But the oddest decision is that these narratives are told through the lens of the third story. Elliott Tittensor plays the North’s hard man. He’s a little less than convincing, being too young, too tiny and more like a sparrow than a Rottweiler – even I could duff him up. But that’s not the problem. He’s fallen in love with Steven Berkoff’s daughter (Charlotte Hope, who can’t keep a straight face when spouting terrible poetry). So there’s a Romeo and Juliet plot, but soppier and with less substance than Mr Cameron’s European policy. In terms of the film’s main events, Tittensor and Hope are peripheral. Yet it is Tittensor who voices the film’s terrible voice-over. He breathlessly tells us ‘I’d do anything for her’ (cut to a visual of him putting his coat round her), and that ‘things were moving fast’ (visual: he’s smoking calmly in a non-moving car), and that ‘things were urgent’ (we see him driving – the speed gauge reads 34mph). But Tittensor has so little to do with the other plot strands, it lopsides the film and tries to interest us in a character who has very little involvement in what’s going on. Imagine if STAR WARS had been made from the point of view of the Jawas instead of the droids. Yes, Elliott Tittensor is a Jawa.

    The film attempts a few eccentricities: as well as the dying clown, there’s a European-transvestite-assassin and Berkoff has a weird dream sequence. But it’s mostly business as usual. Agyeman gets to beat up a few male chauvinist pigs (foreigners of course) but she spends most of her time babysitting the little girl. It’s not entirely clear what Agyeman’s fate is. Greta Scacchi turns up to die and spout Yorkshire homilies. We know she’s a northerner because she says ‘ruddy’ and ‘bugger’. Bernard Hill, usually an undemonstrative actor, literally chews the scenery: there’s a bit where he’s annoyed so he takes a chunk out of a hapless chair. I liked Geoff Bell as a gone to seed henchman. Keith Allen probably fares best in a small role as he understands the idiom and doesn’t have much to do. Berkoff is Berkoff, but with more screen time than usual.

    None of the established actors disgraces themselves (other than by being in the film anyway) but they cannot ennoble this reasonably competent thoroughly uninspiring mediocrity. It’s a more accomplished affair than most of the home-made detritus in the genre (and so it should be), but the story is spread too thinly between the characters, and at no point do you actually believe these are the two great criminal gangs of our time. This wanted to be a big GOOODFELLAS-type epic when it should have contented itself with being just another Essex Boys film (though I am NOT saying I’d prefer to watch an Essex Boy film).

    PS: Is ‘minging’ still in the vocabulary of the youth of today?

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