PCN reviewer Jarv brings us a review of The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan, releasing in the UK on July 2nd. He’s also bringing us an interview with director Paul Tanter next week. Until then, here are his thoughts on the film. Sounds worth a go.
I’m genuinely convinced we’re in the middle of a kind of mini-golden period in British Cinema. 2011 in particular had some genuinely outstanding efforts released (and Brighton Rock, but we won’t talk about that). 2012 has got off to a relatively good start, with the new Hammer effort The Woman in Black playing to one of our traditional cinematic strengths. With films from the likes of Ben Wheatley still to come, it could again turn out to be another good year for our much benighted film industry. Mid way through comes director Paul Tanter’s The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan, a film that promises to play to another of our traditional strengths: The London gangster movie.
Hooliganism was huge news in England for much of the 80’s and 90’s. However, concerted efforts by the authorities and the clubs have seen it reduced to a rump of hard-core villains. In the 90’s, films such as the criminally underrated I.D. looked at life in the various “firms”; in particular the violence and nihilism of those defined by the weekly confrontation on the terraces. Tanter’s fourth picture fits into this tradition, but borrows liberally from early Guy Richie, amongst others.
Telling the story of the White Collar Hooligan, Mike, the film opens with him serving time in jail. Mike is suffering in the economic downturn, and only finds expression on the terraces with his best mate Eddie. Eddie, described as being a man that has his fingers in every dirty little scam in London, draws Mike in to working for him on a victimless crime: Credit Card cloning. Drawing out hundreds of thousands of pounds a night, the lads start living the high life before, inevitably, it all comes crashing off the rails.
There’s a lot to like here, frankly. Mike, while clearly a thug, is a strangely charming character, and he’s played with an air of verisimilitude by Nick Nevern. His long-suffering girlfriend Katie is warmly played by Rita Ramnani, although I did wish she’d grow a brain and ditch him. Regular Tanter collaborator Simon Phillips has a sleazy charm as Eddie, and Laaaaaandaaaaan crime film regular (via the Bill) Billy Murray plays head of the Firm “Mr. Robinson”.
I see this really as three clear sections. The first, the rise, is the best section of the film. The sequences with Mike applying for any job no matter how inappropriate (the playgroup is a cracker) are genuinely amusing, while his good-natured narration as he spirals out of control may appear arch, but it’s also reflective and not patronising for the audience. We’ve seen this sort of criminal story done countless times, but it’s all put together with a twinkle in its eye and a sense of fun. The second section, also works well as reality comes crashing down around them. The final section, the aftermath, on the other hand, isn’t as good being predictable and lazy in places (the Manchester gangsters are unforgivably slapdash).
It’s not thematically coherent either. Mike muses at the end that it all went wrong when he stopped being a hooligan- but we don’t get any feeling that he was involved. Sure, there’s lots of him at the football, which is to be expected, but an early scene with him and Eddie in confrontation with the police has the pair of them bailing out and going to the pub. When he muses that it went wrong for him when he moved on, he’s not telling the truth because he really wasn’t what I’d consider to be a “proper” Hooligan. He’s not part of a gang, or a firm, rather him and Eddie go to whatever game they can (unless West Ham suddenly got good enough to play in Europe when I wasn’t looking), and it’s apparent that the game itself is more important for them than the fighting. Eddie is a natural schemer, and the leap to the upper echelons of crime is a doddle for him, but not so much his less intelligent friend.
Yet this isn’t the story of Eddie. It’s the story of Mike. Mike is our entrance to the film, we follow him for the most part, and he’s the principal narrator of the story. I half wonder if it wouldn’t have been a better film with Eddie in the lead, because the scam is interesting, and Eddie certainly fits the “White Collar Hooligan” motif better than obviously working class Mike. Eddie is also a far more compelling character, and he’s in far deeper than his friend. Mike, at the end of the day, is a blue collar terrace warrior, he aspires to drinking, fighting on a Saturday, shagging the platinum blonde, and some manual labour job somewhere- he just simply lacks the panache and polish of his friend.
The real problem I have here, though, is that outside of the scam itself, there really isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before. I can list off many London crime films almost effortlessly that range from the jovial to the savage, and I can also think of plenty of hooligan movies. However, White Collar is trying to balance between the two poles; attempting to show the crime that often underpins the firms, but I don’t think it’s fully successful as I haven’t the feeling of balance, the thug side seems strangely under-represented. I do understand why they haven’t shown it, as there’s no quicker way to lose sympathy for a character than have him display acts of innate thuggishness.
Nevertheless, it is entertaining. The first third in particular is a blast, and almost everything up until his first arrest rocks along at a fair old lick with a big cheeky grin on its face. When it does stumble, it doesn’t lose its sense of brio and its sense of fun. White Collar Hooligan is telling an entertaining tale with a likeable narrator, and as such it is indeed worth a look.
Overall, I recommend this if you’re English, and remember the 80’s, but I’m not sure I do if you’re international. The problem I have giving it an unequivocal thumbs up is that it is just so derivative, and the tales of “cockerny” villains and salt of the earth scumbags are ten a penny and, aside from the scam, there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen elsewhere. I am, however, curious to see what Tanter’s other films are like, and I do think he could well be one to watch in the future.
Read Jarv’s other reviews for PCN here:
Read more of Jarv’s reviews over at Werewolves on the Moon, where he covers everything from schlock to classic literature and video games.