Bish…

Bosh…

Bash…

Wallop!

“’AVE SOME OF THAT YOU FACKIN’ CAAAAAN’T!”

Rip…

Tear…

Slash…

Stab!

“I’M GONNA KILL YOU, YOU DIRTY FACKIN’ SLAAAAAAG!”

“I’M THE KING OF THE UNDERWORLD!”

“NO, I’M THE KING OF THE UNDERWORLD, YOU CAAAAAN’T!”

“WHO ARE THESE MOODY CAN”TS?”

“DUNNO. COUPLE OF BROTHERS. FINK THEY’RE RIGHT TASTY CAN’TS. CALL ‘EMSELVES THE KRAYS OR SOMEFINK…”

“Oh. Right. I might fack orf and retire then…”

The End!

That, in a nutshell, is Once Upon A Time In Lahndahn, sorry, London. There. I just saved you 110 minutes of your life. I suffered so you don’t have to. You don’t have to thank me. Just do something good with the time. Take a walk in the sun. Pet a dog. Mess with a baby’s head by doing that thing where you pretend to steal their nose.

Selling itself as Peaky Blinders meets Legend, Once Upon A Time In London is a wannabee epic that’s closer to Bugsy Malone than Sergio Leone’s masterful, operatic Once Upon A Time In America as it traces the shifting fortunes and allegiances, the classic gangster movie cliched rise and fall and rise again of London’s motley crew of spivs and Cockernee geezers from the 30s to the 50s, charting the birth of the celebrity gangster through the bitter rivalry of infamous gang bosses Jack Spot (Terry Stone) and Billy Hill (Leo Gregory).

Constantly recycling the same handful of sets and locations, the film is vicious without being fun or interesting, the cast a collection of refugees from the inexplicably popular low-budget hooligan and Essex Boys DTV genre merely swapping tracky bottoms and Pringle sweaters for House of Mad Frankie Fraser double breasted suits while playing Charlie Big Potatoes, the script the usual ragbag of gangster movie clichés.

Talented horror director Rumley (Fashionista, the rabid revenge thriller Red White & Blue) brings a certain visual style to the material but is undone by being forced by his tiny budget to fudge all of the potentially interesting moments that probably attracted him to the movie in the first place, perhaps the greatest fudge being the relegation to newsreel footage in the opening credits of the Battle Of Cable Street, when London’s East End – backed by anarchists, socialists, communists, Jewish community groups and local gangsters – took to the streets to oppose Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts. We see Jewish gangster Spot rouse the rabble in an East End pub and then we see him go down for his part in the anti-fascist rioting. BUT WE DON’T SEE THE BATTLE! Why bother even mentioning it if we don’t get to see a Nazi get razored by an East End gangster?

None of the cast make much of an impression, Gregory and Stone both too old to play the younger versions of the characters and, possibly, even too old to play the old versions of their characters, the violence is by the numbers and the sex remarkably sexless. The film looks and feels cheap, the production values what you’d expect from a reconstruction in a Fred Dinenage true crime documentary, perhaps the best thing about the film being Ronald Manookian’s essaying of celebrity evil nutbag Frankie Fraser, matter-of-factly carving up teenagers and throwing darts at some poor geezer’s mush.

Overlong, overstuffed and unsatisfying, Once Upon A Time In London is one fairytale that doesn’t end happily ever after.

Movie Review: Once Upon A Time In London
2.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)

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