(director/writer: Antonia Bird; screenwriter: Ronan Bennett; cinematographer: Fred Tammes; editor: St John O’Rorke; cast: Robert Carlyle (Ray), Ray Winstone (Dave), Steve Sweeney (Weasel), Gerry Conlon (Vince), Leon Black (Robbie), David Boateng (Lionel), Steven Waddington (Stevie), Phil Davis (Julian), Damon Albarn (Jason), Lena Headey (Connie), Peter Vaughan (Sonny), Arthur Whybrow (Bill), Andrew Tiernan (Chris), Christine Tremarco (Sarah), Sue Johnston (Alice); Runtime: 105; Distant Horizon/BBC Films; 1997-UK)

“… has a raw look but little else to recommend it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cliché heist-gone-sour movie by the British filmmaker Antonia Bird that has a raw look but little else to recommend it. It was bloody and filled with violent action scenes that should please the kind of audience that gravitates toward that sort of thing. It was very aggressive in attitude without much to say about anything, but it was entertaining.

Five criminals of varying experience plunge into doing a violent armed robbery of a major West End London security firm, while dressed in flashy yellow jumper-suits and heavily armed. The two leaders are Ray (Carlyle) and Dave (Winstone). Ray is a former East End commie who has lost faith in the cause and is now out for himself as a professional thief. Dave is Ray’s closest friend and is a traditional East End hood with a long history in crime. The gang members are: Stevie (Waddington), who is someone Ray feels sorry for because he’s not all there and he has looked out for him ever since they were prison cellmates; Julian (Davis), who is an unstable petty hood without much experience and is also money hungry; While the final member is Jason (Damon Albarn-the lead singer for the rock band Blur), who is valuable because his uncle is a veteran mobster, Sonny (Peter Vaughn) — a man with connections.

After the successful robbery the boys realize the take is less than expected and not enough to retire on as they hoped for, as immediately in-fighting occurs over the split. What follows is betrayal, as one of the robbers has stolen all the other shares. The film becomes a study about criminality and their greedy nature, with Carlyle distinguishing himself in the role of the disillusioned thief whose idea of comradeship fails for both the cause he supported and in his gang of robbers.

In the film’s finale there are some more double-crosses as the gang is after blood and money from their former partners, as they end up doing a heist on a local police station to get back their missing robbery loot. But the film fails to make me care for any of these characters, though it tries hard to get you to believe that Ray is not a bad guy. His commie girlfriend Connie (Headey) is still a believer in the cause, in Ray, and in running a charity house for young black kids. She likes underdogs in this dog eat dog world Ray and her travel in.

After director Antonia Bird (Mad Love) did a disappointing tour in Hollywood, she went back home to do a native crime caper film that is in the style of British crime films like “Get Carter,” “The Long Good Friday” and “Brighton Rock.” This action film is all action and the talk is all cockney, which makes it hard for an American audience to understand. This gutsy crime film with political overtones fails to be convincing. It was not possible for me to believe Carlyle has any political insight, never mind him being an idealist. It just seems like another mindless film in a long list of streetwise crime stories that are now hard to remember because they all seem to run together.

Incidentally, the film’s title is a cockney term for a gangster. The film is loosely based on a short-story by Belfast-born writer Ronan Bennett.

REVIEWED ON 10/2/2001 GRADE: C   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/