Putting aside the straight-to-DVD bargain bucket releases, we are occasionally reminded that the British crime genre can still throw out the odd cracker, and luckily with ‘The Guvnors’, written and directed by Gabe Turner, this is one of those times. When a gang of London council estate hoodies, led by Adam Shenko (Harley Sylvester), try to stamp their authority, or mark their turf if you will, they are fobbed off by remarks that they would never earn the same respect as ‘the Guvnors’; a legendary local football-hooligan squad. Threatened and irritated by the comparison, an open challenge is made to the cockney geezers, who appear to have put their violent pasts behind them, to find out who has the running of the town. Up steps former footsoldier Mitch (Doug Allen) to face off against the young team and settle the score for good.
It would be easy to label this project Kidulthood versus The Football Factory and move on, and I guess plot-wise you wouldn’t be far wrong, but personally I think that would be an injustice. From the off, the concrete colours and griminess conjure up a dangerous atmosphere that is hard to shake off. Violence is never far away, and when it presents itself, nothing is held back. The low-budget cinematography is stylish yet authentic and the characters, as stereotypical as they might be, are entertaining. It falls victim to a dose of lazy storytelling when it treads over the much explored father-and-son themes, highlighting how bad decisions filter through generations to warp legacies left behind.
Featuring a host of vaguely familiar faces, mostly from the realms of British telly, the acting on display is of the highest order, especially from one half of hip-pop duo Rizzle Kicks, Harley. Following a trend of rapper-turned-actors, Sylvester is unrecognisable in his role and brings a frightening sense of menace and unpredictability to the film. Sporting a brutal scar on his cheek, he spits through the venomous dialogue with ease, boasting incredible screen presence with Charley Palmer Merkell searing alongside him as the cocky bullyboy sidekick, Trey. Doug Allen gets the ex-gangster part spot on and despite being settled his new life schmoozing clients in his flashy advertising office, he effectively gives the impression that he’d be far more comfortable with a flick knife in his hand than a biro. Former soap opera actors Martin Hancock and David Essex impress with their small but pivotal, powerful performances.
A boxing club flashback scene is used to illustrate the origins of the Guvnors group and how they build a reputation and achieved their credible status. On the wall of the fighting den, a motivational sign was proudly on show with a quote from Mark Twain which read ‘Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.’ Director Gabe Turner’s vision is fuelled by competitive anger and masculinity, stored within the violent minds of the gang leaders. When the two staple mobs of crime culture collide and this acid spills over, you better have ringside seats.
After making a name from himself in the horror film genre, film director Adam Wingard is treading into uncharted territory with psychological thriller ‘The Guest’. While the filmmaker breaks free from the creepy, the starring actor Dan Stevens breaks free from the Crawley as he leaves behind his Downton reputation to become a slick-haired dangerous man of mystery. When soldier David Collins (Stevens) turns up at the door of the grieving Peterson family, struggling after the death of their son Caleb, he isn’t initially met with a warm welcome by all. Agreeing to stay for a couple of days, he extends a helping hand, sorting out their problems one-by-one. But why? While mother, father and son warm to David’s charms, Anna (Maika Monroe), the teenager daughter of the clan, has her suspicions over the true identity of their new houseguest and his seemingly selfless actions, but by the time she discovers his motives, will it be too late?
From the opening scene when a shot of David running down an open road abruptly cuts to a garish title card accompanied by over-the-top synth music, it becomes evident that the team behind the film aren’t taking themselves or the subject matter too seriously, which in this case is a good thing. Free from the formulaic reins of the scary movie, writer Simon Barrett combines a witty intelligent script with Wingard’s strong visual style, creating something that takes inspiration from faraway pots yet feels fresh and exciting – a cult classic in the making. The eighties electronic soundtrack blends works well while key scenes are smeared with exaggerated violence but with horror elements thrown in as well, it’s like a Nicolas Winding Refn Halloween party.
The complexities of the protagonist are portrayed with ease by former television actor Dan Stevens. Even when delivering his whip-quick retorts and keeping his unflinching cool, there is a blistering sense of menace behind his eyes. His charisma and presence are already generating talk of his capabilities to play James Bond, no doubt down to his admirable ability to mix humour with action. This talent culminates in a brilliant bar brawl scene where his character makes quick work of a gang of school-bullies who’ve been picking on Anna’s younger brother Luke. Equally effective is co-star Maika Monroe whose rebellious beauty brings the only glimmer of realism the story has. Madness ensues around her as this handsome stranger wreaks havoc on everything and everyone she knows and her performance is memorable. Star quality is demonstrated by both Stevens and Monroe, telling me this won’t be their last leading roles on the silver screen.
‘The Guest’ refuses to conform to genre expectations, moving seamlessly from a slow-burning character study to thrilling action-comedy to a horror-esque finale. The closing sections illustrate a craft in suspense in a location resembling the wreckage if a ghost train ripped through the Overlook Hotel. The violence used is double-edged, evoking reactions of both laughter and shock and the closing expletives in the script sum it up rather well. By playing up to stereotypes, Wingard entertains with a smirk across his face so when this guest packs up its belongings and moves on, you’ll be sad to see the back of it.
And here we are at the end of another year of cinema. The debate rages on whether to include 2014 Oscar runners in the ‘Best of’ lists as really they are 2013 pictures with late UK releases. Alas I will go by the calendar year so here are my favourites! Click the images for my reviews.
It’s common knowledge that hair-brained director Tim Burton loves to cast his wife Helena Bonham Carter and his pal Johnny Depp in almost ALL of his films. As The Cult Den celebrate the iconic filmmaker and his collection of work, Cinema Perspective picks his five greatest characters that weren’t played by the aforementioned pair!
5. Bela Lugosi (Ed Wood)
Ed Wood is known as one of Hollywood’s worst directors with a cross-dressing habit and in 1994, Tim Burton endeavored to direct a biopic of his life. Martin Landau starred alongside Johnny Depp and played the part of actor Bela Lugosi who was an idol of Wood’s.
4. The Oompa-Loompas (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
In a modern interpretation of Roald Dahl’s classic novel, the Indian actor Deep Roy appeared as all of Willy Wonka’s helpers. A distinct change from the orange-faced versions in the original film version, the choreographed dance sequences were described by one critic as ‘Busby Berkeley on crack’.
3. Adolfo Pirelli (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
In 2007, Burton turned his hand to adapting another famous story, this time re-telling the Victorian musical tale of barber turned serial killer Sweeney Todd. Comedy actor Sacha Baron Cohen co-starred as Todd’s wicked adversary Adolfo Pirelli.
2. Alice Kingsleigh (Alice in Wonderland)
In another modern adaptation of a classic (there’s a pattern here), Tim Burton’s version of Lewis Carrol’s fantasy fairytale Alice in Wonderland was met with a mixed response. One of the highlights though was Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice, bringing the suitable Burton-esque darkness to the role.
1. The Joker (Batman)
Finally there’s an entry in the list that doesn’t star Johnny Depp! Tim Burton’s trip to Gotham brought the comic book to the big screen in a way that few other filmmakers could pull off. Stealing the show from the caped crusader himself was The Joker, played by the great Jack Nicholson. Let’s face it, the baddies are always more fun anyway!