In the wasteland of lazy, lairy, Charlie Big Potatoes, Mockney geezer, bish-bash-bosh, Brit crime flicks beloved by Engerland’s Stella-swilling aging lads it almost seems a no-brainer that some crafty blighter would note the success of the football hooligan sub-genre (I.D., Green Street, et al…) and that of the urban hoodie film (Kidulthood, Adulthood, whatever Plan B’s up to this week) and in a Road to Damascus flash think “Cor blimey ‘Arry, a fackin’ blinding fought’s just popped in me canister…” and decide to marry the two sub-genre’s in an unholy union of Stanley knives, shooters, grim taciturn boat-races, spitting and copious use of that ever popular term of Mockney endearment: all together now “you fackin’ caaaaaaan’t!”

As if by magic, this week sees the release of Gabe Turner’s clichéd but surprisingly effective hoodies vs. hooligans thriller The Guvnors (breathlessly inspired, allegedly, by a true tale of the London Riots) which pitches a gang of vicious, feral yoot, happily dealing drugs and striping the faces of teenage girls with impunity, into a showdown with the Guvnors, a firm of middle aged former football hooligans and all round diamond geezers returning to clean up their old manor.

In retaliation for being dissed by 60-something ex-boxer Mickey (David Essex. Yup, you read that right, DAVID “Oh what a circus…” ESSEX), rising young ghetto superstar Adam Shenko (Harley Sylvester) and his multiracial (well, one of ’em’s white…) gang of hood rats beat to death the former stage Che Guevara and mentor of the Guvnors, a legendary firm of local football casuals.

Propaa nortee back in their day, the Guvnors were honourable thugs (women could walk the streets, only them that had it comin’ got hurt, etc) who kept order on the streets while committing mayhem on the terraces (…and sometimes on the streets to be fair) until conflicted leader Mitch, tired of the violence, turned his back on the boys and scarperred to suburbia wiv ‘is bird to have babies. Mickey’s death stokes the fires of the Guvnors’ wrath, the older, wiser (…but still a bit tasty in a ruck) Mitch (Doug Allen) reuniting the mostly middle aged and respectable gang with the promise of vengeance and a good old tear up. But as the generations clash, Mitch’s past is about to collide with his present…

Despite a chilling performance from Harley Sylvester (one half of good-natured British hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks) and some bruising fight scenes, The Guvnors holds few surprises, all the familiar tropes and clichés are present and correct; sudden explosions of vicious violence, a slo-mo climactic battle in the rain scored to either soft rock (to emphasise the elegiac nature) or dub-step (to get the lads’ adrenaline pumping), the awkward cameos by celebrity former thugs in minor roles playing up to their image of wistful romantic ex-gunslingers…but Turner’s direction is muscular, the violent scenes suffused with an atmosphere of dread inevitability while the quieter scenes are low-key and effective. Essex shows quality as the grizzled veteran, Allen is solid as the former bovver boy whose mask of respectability is slipping and there’s remarkably decent support from, of all people, failed Eddie Murphy impersonator Richard Blackwood (yup, the comedian who once examined the results of his own enema on Channel 5 once) as a tough cop but it’s Rizzle Kick Sylvester who dominates with a hypnotic performance of sleepy-eyed menace; he’s every nice, middle class filmgoer’s worst nightmare, a strutting, swaggering embodiment of Broken Britain.

Ultimately, The Guvnors is a bit too po-faced for its own good, squandering its designer suited and booted Seven Samurai potential on a hamfisted fathers-and-sons sub-plot and a laughably Jacobean late revelation, but it’s a lot better than you’re expecting and Sylvester is a teen psycho to rival the late, great Richard Attenborough’s Pinkie.


DVD Review: The Guvnors
3.0Overall Score
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