The British gangster film is a peculiar thing. We don’t need great performances, believable scripts or even recognisable names on the cast list which, in theory, should mean the film will be a disaster both critically and financially.
But how many people had you heard of previously out of the Lock, Stock
cast? The dialogue was unrealistic and not every performance was top notch, but something about it made it work. Every aspect about it that should have hindered it came together perfectly and set a new standard. Snatch
followed it up in a similar vein but since then we’ve had a barrage of sub-standard copycats, and The Heavy
is no exception.
The film’s biggest fault is the script as it starts out with a relatively simple storyline then the movie descends in an overly complicated mess that has no idea what genre it is. It’s a family drama with revenge, hit men, corruption and politics but it’s too light on gangster material which should have been the primary focus. Perhaps Marcus Warren watched the Godfather
too many times and thought he could make some improvements.
Gary Stretch plays Mitchell ‘Boots’ Mason, an ex-con with a penchant for clock-making who’s in the employ of antiques dealing gangster, Mr. Anawalt, played by Stephen Rea. Still mourning the death of his daughter and feeling remorseful over killing his wife’s lover, Boots is an angst-ridden debt collector.
Stretch really doesn’t do much here except talk in a gravelly voice about how much he hates his brother and occasionally raises an eyebrow.
Anawalt gives Boots a contract to kill a prominent political figure that is soon to announce that he’s running in the next election. Though Boots doesn’t like to use guns, the money and the new life it could provide him entices him to take the job, the only problem being that the target is his own brother, Christian Mason. There’s no love lost between the brothers since it was Christian’s testimony that sent Boots to prison in the first place.
Vinnie Jones and his ugly new beard join the cast as Dunn, the copper out for revenge on Boots for an ugly facial scar he once gave him. Of course having the acting range of a teaspoon, Jones plays the same character he always does if not a little angrier this time around.
Overall the acting is dire and had it not been for Christopher Lee as Boots’ father and Stephen Rea lending his reputation, this film would probably have gone straight to DVD where it belongs. The worst offender is Adrian Paul as Christian, giving a performance so wooden he makes the puppets from Team America look human.
Boots could have been an interesting, tormented character with engaging motivation but Gary Stretch’s performance left me cold. Lee Ryan gives an equally poor performance as Anawalt’s sharply dressed assistant Rubin but his cheeky chap mannerisms had me wondering, ‘Was Danny Dyer busy?’ It was totally unbelievable that an intelligent businessman like Anawalt would hire an East End errand boy like Rubin whose outfits are so bright and flashy that he could easily be mistaken for a carnival float.
Shannyn Sossamon appears as Christian’s mistress - a role that would probably have been given to Mischa Barton had the budget been ever lower, and Sadie Frost turns up as the barmaid of Boots’ local. She’s given nothing to do as the only stable woman in Boots’ life because the script totally overlooks their connection.
I will say this for The Heavy, it looks good. The locations are great and perfectly decorated with camerawork and cinematography that lift the film just enough to get your attention, unfortunately the rest of the film can’t hold on to it. I’d give it a B for effort but it fails totally in its execution.