Starring: Frank Harper, Craig Fairbrass (obviously), Vincent Reegan, Sean Pertwee, Jamie Foreman, Ashley Walters – Hang on! I see a pattern emerging here!
You may like this if you liked: The Football Factory (Nick Love, 2004), Rise of the Footsoldier (Julian Gilbey, 2007), Essex Boys (Terry Winsor, 2000), anything cockeney…
Micky Mannock (Harper) and Ray Collishaw (Fairbrass) are notorious gangster cousins who are pretty much at the top of the food chain (naturally). However, Ray wants to go straight and build some golf course in the Med so they decide to do one last big job to set them up for life. Despite Ray’s reluctance, Micky agrees to a deal with some nasty generic gruff voiced Russians. Anyone reading and has seen a film of this genre before will be surprised to hear that things go wrong. Now, these two beloved cockney rogues owe these nasty Russians £25million and nasty Russians being nasty Russians, they want their money back or may well kill people if they don’t. So what are these cheeky cockney geezers that we apparently care about going to do? Some ridiculous heist that involves going to Berlin to steal some diamonds that will cover their debt and set them up for life. This also involves travelling via Amsterdam just to show naked women, and then in Berlin the heist will take place during an England Vs Germany match on 23rd April, which is of course St. Georges day. Genius! Meanwhile their every move is watched by two apparently ruthless policemen: Nixon (Foreman) and Proctor (Pertwee) who apparently have an insider infiltrating this little gang of loveable rogues.
St. Georges Day is a debut effort written and directed by eloquent and softly spoken Shakespearean thespian Frank Harper, famous for his roles in The Football Factory and Lock. Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 2008), and let us not forget his scene stealing performance as the bank robber in Kevin and Perry Go Large (Ed Bye, 2000). I thoroughly enjoyed Dexter Fletcher’s (who is, of course, briefly in this) directorial debut Wild Bill last year, so maybe this could be another enjoyable treat. He seems to have persuaded all his mates to be in it, the only ones missing are Danny Dyer and Tamer Hassan; maybe they were performing Hamlet at the Old Vic during filming?
I will come back to term ‘enjoyable’ later if I may? First, a quick review:
It seems Frank Harper has certainly learnt a few things while starring in all these geezer films, in basically that he has cut and pasted all the clichéd plots from these and stuck them all together in what is an absolute narrative mess. This film received consistently horrific reviews, and I have to admit that they are all deserved. St. Georges Day is the most possibly generic and clichéd ‘cockeney gangster’ film you could imagine. Every cliché in terms of plot and characters is there to see in full clunky and embarrassing glory. I am not going to list them here, but anyone who watches this will be ticking them off in their head almost involuntarily. As for the dialogue, co-written by Frank himself, when there are lines such as “The Price is Right? This isn’t the game show you c**t!” or “Two words: Angry Russians”, it is basically Eastenders with swearing.
There is a also a very insular and quite racist approach to this film, such as the typical evil Russian gangsters and double crossing Dutch drug dealers. However, what becomes really embarrassing is Frank Harper’s deluded sense of patriotism that comes out within the script, there are many occasions where he compares their drugs operation and how they are going to sort out the mess they created to strategies deployed by Churchill and the British armies in both of the world wars. This is both insulting and rather embarrassing to watch; as we have to remember that these men are criminals despite whatever ‘moral code’ they follow. There are many voice-over scenes, usually with Frank Harper looking pensive on some riverside where he tries to justify to us why he is essentially a criminal. He often mentions things like ‘loyalty’ and tells us that he never killed anyone that “didn’t deserve it or would have done the same thing to him”. No Frank, you are criminals, you are not the good guys. Even the police are portrayed as bad guys for simply doing their job; does Frank really think we are that stupid? Also, it is worth saying that Keeley Hazell stars in her debut film role and is shocking, though let us face it, she is not there for her acting is she? She also plays Mickey’s girlfriend and there are many scenes where Frank Harper gets to kiss her. Hang on! Isn’t Frank Harper writer, actor, director and producer? Indeed he is. Oh, Frank, you dirty bastard! However, her character as ‘Peckham Princess’ (No, me neither) is beyond caricature, as with all the women here who are simply portrayed in a shamefully misogynistic way. However, this just adds to the list of generic narrow minded stereotyping like evil Russians, drugged up crazy Dutch people, angry Scottish people etc.
Now, I will return to the phrase ‘enjoyable’, and though I may well be contradicting what I have previously just said, but I must confess that I found St. Georges Day extremely enjoyable. This does come with a proviso though: If you take St. Georges Day with a pinch of salt, and when you see a cast list like that (maybe with the exception of Charles Dance – maybe a marketing ploy?) how on earth can you take this film seriously? I went into this film expecting ridiculous nonsense and was not disappointed; I must confess that it frequently made me laugh. It is obvious that Frank Harper thinks he is making the Citizen Kane of British gangster films. St. Georges Day takes itself so ridiculously seriously; this almost makes it even funnier to watch. You never laugh with it, but frequently at it and because of this I will confess that I actually really enjoyed it, though certainly not for any of the reasons dear old (now I am afraid to say officially an auteur) Frank Harper would want.
In summary: Predictable, clichéd, crap. This is the definitive British gangster film in that every cliché and caricature is there to see, all put together by the chunkiest script imaginable. However, this may well be (unintentionally) one of the funniest British films of recent years.
2/10, but 10/10 for the comedy!