Netflix UK film review: St George’s Day
James R | On 04, Sep 2014
Director: Frank Harper
Cast: Charles Dance, Frank Harper, Craig Fairbrass, Sean Pertwee, Luke Treadaway, Keeley Hazell, Nick Moran, Neil Maskell
Watch St George’s Day online in the UK: Netflix UK
“They say that Mickey McManon is a killer. They may be right, but you’ve got to put it into context…”
That’s Frank Harper speaking. Frank Harper the director. Frank Harper the writer. Frank Harper the star of St. George’s Day. And as writer, director and star, whatever he says is important enough to be heard constantly. Every few minutes throughout this overlong, interminably dull gangster flick, up pops Frank Harper to deliver another gruff speech. After 20 minutes, it wears you down. After 2 hours, you’ll be cramming popcorn in your ears.
They say that shoving popcorn in your ears is the mark of a desperate man. They may be right, but you’ve got to put it into context.
It’s not a problem with acting – Harper’s as blokey as a London gangster needs to be and carries off Mickey’s physical threat with confident ease – but writing. “I wanna fuck you so much…” he grunts at Keeley Hazell’s trophy girlfriend, The Peckham Princess. “How much?” she asks, happily ignoring the fact that her character doesn’t have a real name. “Right now much,” comes the reply. Dialogue doesn’t clunk; it bongs into existence like a heavy metal cover of Tubular Bells. With Brian Blessed doing a voiceover on top.
The same is true of the rest of the cast. As Mickey’s trying-to-go-straight cousin, Ray, EastEnders veteran Craig Fairbrass is also hindered by the script. “We’ll do the job but only if the price is right,” he says after the siblings arrange to meet by the River Thames. You can hear the reply coming from Putney Bridge. Sure enough, Harper doesn’t disappoint: “This ain’t a fucking game show,” he snarls.
The audience titters. Or at least, you think they do – you can’t tell because of all that popcorn.
It’s unfortunate, because St. George’s Day is a film with some ambition. The nighttime shots of London look alright, while Harper’s globe-trotting story is clearly trying to be bigger than the usual Guy Ritchie strand of cockney crime caper. What we end up with is a low-budget tale that dares to take in London’s Docklands and Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in a single stride. But the bigger its strides, the more steps it misses: undefined friends move in and out of the background, plot twists are predictable and the editing is all over the place. At one point we cut halfway through a conversation by an Amsterdam canal to the exact same conversation in a coffee shop without skipping a beat – a logical progression, if you’re a Time Lord.
Fortunately, though, folks like Luke Treadaway and Neil Maskell are there to flesh out the ensemble, each getting their own wobbly-lipped interrogation scene. Wild Bill’s Dexter Fletcher also appears as a pikey, while Charles Dance keeps his chin up as Britain’s withering Godfather, Trenchard. He smiles menacingly every few minutes, whenever he remembers his pay check.
But nothing can save these decent cast members from St George’s Day’s script. Back in that Amsterdam coffee shop, Harper starts on another long-winded lecture.
“Bollocks is the greatest word in the English language,” he says proudly. “Sometimes, it means bollocks, I don’t believe it! Sometimes, it’s the absolute bollocks, the best thing ever. It could be bollocks, you’re annoying me.” He pauses.
“But sometimes, bollocks just means bollocks.”