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.
See the trailer: