When the two criminal empires that rule England’s gangland, John Claridge’s (Bernard Hill) Northern gang and Vic Clarke’s (Steven Berkoff) Southern mob, meet to bury the hatchet and discuss a fragile alliance, the uneasy truce is almost shattered when volatile psychopath and Clarke henchman, Gary Little (Brad Moore), casually murders the clown (yup, an actual clown) who nicks his change from the bar, a clown who unfortunately happens to be Claridge’s oldest friend.

But as each side plots against the other, factions developing within the gangs as suspicion, paranoia and infighting take over, two star-crossed lovers, Clarke’s daughter Willow (Charlotte Hope) and Claridge’s lieutenant Terry (Elliott Tittensor) are planning their escape…

A refreshing change from the usual bish-bosh-bash Charlie Big Potatoes Mockernee gangster movies the UK churns out, writer/director Steven Nesbit’s North v South riffs on Romeo And Juliet, Harold Pinter and Luc Besson’s Leon while borrowing visual cues from Carravaggio and if, ultimately, North v South amounts to less than the sum of it’s parts, well, they are quite considerable parts.

With an eclectic cast that, as well as Berkoff and Hill, features Keith Allen, Geoff Bell, Greta Scacchi and former Doctor Who sidekick Freema Agyeman, it’s little wonder then that the love story that provides the spine of the film fails to hold much interest, Nesbit obviously finding his young lovers as boring as the audience does. Sharing narration duties, Tittensor as Terry is pretty but bland while Hope is gorgeous but barely registers. Which is something of a waste given her ferocious performance as the psychotic Myranda in Game Of Thrones. Willow is a drip, required mostly to hang around in a hotel room waiting for Terry and telling us how much they love each other and how they are each other’s world while the film never allows us to feel for the characters. We don’t know them, care little for them, Nesbit choosing to bypass their meeting and falling in love, instead presenting them as already furtive lovers which hardly encourages you to invest in their grand passion.

Far more fun are the film’s sub-plots and supporting characters; ice cold enforcer Penny (Freema Agyeman), looking like a footballer’s WAG and packing a Desert Eagle, taking on the dead clown’s daughter (Sydney Wade) Leon-style as an apprentice, teaching her to kill but also how to ride a horse, how to dress, etc., like a perverse fairy godmother or cross-dressing European hitman Gustave (Dom Monot) who, with his flamethrower, gyrocopter and Platonic love for Penny, feels like a vacationing Bond villain or the venal, sociopathic Gary Little (Brad Moore).

Looking like a younger, thinner, perma-tanned Ricky Gervais, Moore’s performance is a barnstormer, chewing the scenery with such gusto he even puts veteran scenery chewer Berkoff to shame, his dodgy geezer an avatar of pure chaos motivated as much by the desire to destroy everything around him for sheer giggles as he is by a desire to rise through the ranks. Magnetic, chilling, funny and annoying, whenever the unpredictable Moore’s onscreen, all you’re watching is him.

Bold, swaggering and mildly ridiculous, North v South may not always be on nodding terms with logic but its an ambitious, fun, cheeky little British gangster movie with not a footie hooligan or Essex caaaaaaant in sight.

Movie Review: North v South
3.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)

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