Sunday, 29 March 2015



A brace of recent British gangster movies here, suggesting an apparently enduring love for old school East End crime bosses wot dressed smart and loved their mum and didn't do no harm to them wot didn't deserve it, hanging out with colourfully dubious underworld figures like Mickey The Stoat and Harry The Hammer and keeping the bottom of the canal well stocked with the bodies of them wot mysteriously disappeared recently after a disagreement. The spectres of Ron and Reg still loom over this niche of the British Film Industry, who are apparently nowhere near completing their mission to promote a pair of terrifying sociopaths, who would happily nail you to a billiard table for want of anything better to do on a Thursday night, as role models for the next generation of cheerful Cockernee villains wot won't do you no harm if you don't cross them, sunshine.

Both films feature brothers who are aging London crime bosses: Assassin actually has them played by Gary and Martin Kemp, real-life brothers and stars of The Krays. They've mostly gone straight these days but apparently there are still occasions when people need rubbing out and Danny Dyer is their in-house hit man. Unknowingly, he makes the mistake of falling for the cokehead daughter of his last hit and, when she starts digging into her father's unlikely and convenient sudden death, Dyer is assigned to dispose of her as well. But he runs off with her instead to start a new life with her....

There's a semi-decent thriller lurking within Assassin, but JK Amalou (Hard Men, Deviation) is not the man to find it and Danny Dyer is absolutely not the actor to bring the character to life. Granted it's a better film than, say, Basement or Run For Your Wife, but pretty much every film ever made up to and including the collected works of Ted V Mikels is better than Basement or Run For Your Wife. On the flipside, it's scarcely a better piece of work than Dead Man Running or Vendetta or Blood Shot or Doghouse or Outlaw: it is just more of the same and not well enough done to raise any interest. File under Only If It's Raining, Your Netflix Account Has Failed And It's Literally The Only DVD On Cash Converter's Shelf.

We Still Kill The Old Way has a more despairing attitude, contrasting the old-fashioned villainy of the Kray Twins Archer Brothers with the incoherent and brutish misogyny and thuggery of teenage drugs gangs running amok through the East End. When ex-crime boss Steven Berkoff is kicked to death in an alley for disrupting a gang rape, his brother (Ian Ogilvy) flies in from his Spanish hideaway to find out exactly what happened and, teaming up with his old crew, deal with the miserable little scrotes responsible, while maybe rekindling a romance with Lysette Anthony and crossing swords with the ineptitude of the Old Bill (here represented by Alison Doody)....

It may be weighed down by industrial-level swearing and a raft of younger characters so thoroughly hateful they make the Waffen SS look like the Von Trapps (with or without the singing), but to my surprise I kind of enjoyed it. I didn't adore it and I don't want to see it again, but just as the film concerns itself with the old gangsters being (relatively) better than the new breed, so the veteran cast display the charm and watchability that the youngsters simply don't possess. Most audaciously, the film doesn't just end with the possibility of a sequel but actually posits itself as an unofficial followup to The Italian Job, as our "heroes" wax nostalgic about that bullion job they pulled in Turin all those years ago. Frankly, given the choice I'd rather have a second helping of this than Assassin, because at least there's the sense that the cast are having some fun with it whereas Assassin is mostly glum. But I'd sooner the British Film Industry found better role models and hero figures than lowlifes, murderers and foul-mouthed scum.


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