Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Guvnors (2014)

Sometimes, a real rough diamond can stand out and glitter and shine in the sea of straight to DVD football hooligan dross.

Writer/director Gabe Turner's 2014 film The Guvnors is, by and large, one of those films.

It's a familiar story, the kind of spin both Harry Brown and We Still Kill The Old Way have put on the Broken Britain crisis and rise of urban gang related crime. Turner's film pits Rizzle Kicks star (I had to Google him) Harley Sylvester and his snivelling crew of feral, amoral thugs against  the titular Guvnors, a bunch of former football hooligans who ruled the manor back in the day and have now largely moved out to suburbia for the quiet and respectable life.

The biggest fault with The Guvnors is the way it romanticises football hooligans, giving them a code of honour and chivalry that clearly they did not possess in reality. But then, when you see that the likes of Cass Pennant is a producer on the film, and that he and several other real life hooligan 'legends' appear in cameos, it's easy to see why they would have you believe this lie. 

But where The Guvnors shows some intelligence is in its depiction of Sylvester's complex life. Not for Turner the kind of demonisation of youth that Harry Brown and We Still Kill The Old Way excelled in; he depicts this face slashing, murdering little cretin as a devout family man, bringing his son up by a strict code of good manners and ensuring he doesn't fall into the ways he has seemingly gleefully, irrevocably taken to. It's in stark contrast to the film's ostensible hero, former top boy Mitch (Doug Allen) who, despite an air of respectability, clearly has communication issues with his own son which lead to a difficult domestic life beyond the glossy veneer. 

Turner also scores with his cast. It's fitting that he chooses both Doug Allen and Jay Simpson as the two major players in The Guvnors as both actors appeared previously in The Firm, both the remake and the original respectively. There's also Vas Blackwood, Tony Denham (I think you're legally obliged to cast him in this film genre) and a great little scene stealing turn from Paul Reynolds - an actor we don't see enough of. There's an easy chemistry at play in some of the scenes when the old gang get back together that almost seduces you into Turner's glorifying way of thinking thanks to the actors involved who all deliver with aplomb, even when the parts are barely sketched. But perhaps best of all is the little cameo from a twinkly David Essex, as The Guvnors father figure and mentor. Also worth mentioning in the cast (but for the wrong reasons) are Martin Hancock and Richard Blackwood as two rather unconvincing police officers -  No offence meant for their performances but, ludicrously, it seems that only these two officers police the Thamesmead Estate from acts of murder to acts of full scale rioting violence which require an armed response!

There's a twist in the final reel that you get the feeling wants to be operatic but just comes off a bit Jeremy Kyle and ultimately I could have done without it. The Guvnors should have known its limitations by this point and given its viewers what it wanted to see, which I'm guessing is the old guys thrashing the young pretenders. Overall though, this is much better than the genre would have you believe and it's actually a pity it isn't longer than its barely 90 minute running time because I actually think more time would have benefited the film.

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