“I know the title might put you off but I think you’re all going to be pleasantly surprised”
“I know the title might put you off but I think you’re all going to be pleasantly surprised”, was the opening quote from someone introducing the film. As I sat amongst an unusually glamorous audience of cast, crew and their WAGS (I've been to quite a few screenings now and generally people don’t dress up) needless to say I felt quite out of place in my jeans and t-shirt that I'd spent the whole day wearing, I arrived in London at 9am on an incredibly hot and sunny day so you can imagine by 7pm I wasn’t exactly fresh as a daisy.
So, to the film itself. The story, as the title rather overtly suggests tells the story of Mike, who is essentially your average bloke, booze, birds and football. The film has an interesting non linear narrative that opens in the present with Mike being locked up in some French prison, the story cuts back and forth and basically details the events that led up to Mike's current situation. Even the more technical aspects of the story have been well thought out, for instance the ‘crime’ involves a complicated system of installing fake cash machines, acquiring as much data as possible and using that data to produce credit cards with which they can easily withdraw money from anywhere in the country, so it's not just not your average bank robbery or drug smuggling sting you see in these kind of movies.
There's really not much more to say in terms of the story, it’s a classic story of a criminal down on is luck, getting offered to do some run around jobs for a pal and the money starts coming in.
As the operation gets bigger, the stakes get higher and soon Mike is way out his depth in a world of unconvincing gangster types, unrealistically attractive girlfriends, especially for a man of Mike's looks, lifestyle and financial dire straits.
It's quite clear where the film gets its inspiration, its a product of the Danny Dyer school of film, geezers strutting around headbutting anyone who asks them for the time of day, more swearing than a Malcolm Tucker charity swear-a-thon, in fact im pretty sure every 3rd word is F***.
Perhaps I'm being slightly harsh, there are a lot of good things about the film, as a piece of visual work there are nice flourishes from writer director Paul Tanter. However where the directing is strong, it’s the writing that lets it down, the dialogue is clichéd and doesn’t come across like the way people talk whatsoever, its like Tanter locked himself in a room for a weekend watched as many bad football/gangster films as he could, and this is the result. I actually found myself cringing more than a few times thinking ‘did they just say that!?’
The acting for the most part is nothing spectacular, the characters seem like parodies of themselves, it's as if the people who make those awful films like Scary Movie decided to make a football hooligan version. Mike as the protagonist offers the most emotional range in terms of his journey (the rise and fall geddit!) Not even his beautiful girlfriend (sorry to come back to her again but it's baffling why they are a couple) can persuade him to give it all up.
In the end she decides to leave him, and even when Mike asks her to leave the country with him, wedding ring in tow, she says no which is why the ending is all the more infuriating.
Billy Murray, the only famous face you might just recognize in the film, in fact when Mike first meets him he even says ‘I recognize you’ , to which I wanted to yell out ‘He’s from The Bill!’.
Murray as the big boss proves the most competent in terms of his delivery, but his appearance is all too brief. Simon Hill as Eddie, the guy who gives Mike his big break seems far too posh for the role given all the swearing, its almost as if he remembers half through a scene he’s supposed to be a cockney hard man and shifts gear suddenly.
All in all, there's nothing ‘pleasantly surprising’ about the film, it's competently directed and shot well but is let down in so many other aspects.