(WARNING: This Is not a Review)
British movies kill me! You don’t even want to know how much. But I’ve got to admit it wasn’t always like that. When I was a kid, I only thought of British movies as those “dry movies” where you see a bunch of boring aristocrats having one of those balls in this huge ol’ mansion, their women wearing these awful looking gowns that flow like a friggin’ wedding dress, cleavage revealing bodices (not like that’s a bad thing), with corsets and all – their men who almost always have moustaches, with their shoulders all erect every time, and who speak with those phony falsetto voices, trying to sound so grandee every time. And whenever they talked, they always gossiped about someone (another aristocratic dude) who just bought some new horse from India or something. Gawd, I hated that stuff. Of course this wasn’t a stereotype for all English movies, even back then, but I used to think it was, and so I avoided them altogether like a plague!
But the old British sitcoms weren’t half bad; in fact, they were very good; funny as hell too. My favorites were Only Fools and Horses, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Mr. Bean, and Some Mothers Do Have Them. You still get to catch some of these sitcoms on BBC, and you can relive the good old days.
But I’m not going to talk about British sitcoms. I want to talk about some British films that killed me over the years – movies you have to see for yourself to believe just how cool they are.
Before I start, let me just say that when I say British movies, I don’t mean that it doesn’t have any collaborated work with some Hollywood studio. I just mean movies whose production crew are primarily British.
Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
First of all, you can hardly get a cool title like this on a Hollywood movie. Just look at it! Amazing, isn’t it.
Here’s the deal about this flick written and directed by one of my favorite directors, Guy Ritchie. It’s basically about these four guys, friends and all; not really badass type of guys, but streetwise, and who happen to know the real badass type of guys. So one of them convinces the rest, and they pull their money together to play in a high-stakes card game; you know the really dangerous type, the type you ain’t supposed to play if you ain’t got the dough to pay up. But things go awry, I mean really, really awry, and this guy doesn’t know when to stop, till he ends up owing half a million pounds. And the worst part is the boss of the game gives him just one week to come up with the cash. Now he has to go back and explain to his friends how he lost in the game, and how they now owe half a million pounds to one of the most dangerous men on the streets of London, called Hatchet Harry…to pay up in a week!
The thing I like so much about this movie is the street humour in it. Guy Ritchie tells a great story, funny dialogues too. He has this ability to create unforgettable gangster characters that just have unique personalities and an even charismatic sense of humour. If you’re into gangster flicks, then you gotta see this movie. It’s got it all – shooting, swearing, coke and harsh dealing, gangs, and cool punch lines. There are hardly any sexual content in it (there’s this one stripper club scene), except for language. You’ll get to see Jason Statham in his early roles; quite impressive. You’ll also get to see a lot of British talents like Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Steven Mackintosh, Vinne Jones, P.H. Moriarty. Even the singer Sting who played a small part did pretty good.
You want to get introduced into cool British flicks; Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels isn’t a bad way to start. You can quote me!
First of all, if you think I’m going to talk about cool British flicks without mentioning Snatch, then frankly, I don’t have anything to say to you. I’m just going to ignore you, and go on with my writing.
The movie is written and directed by Guy Ritchie; he’s the man, you better believe that! The movie is about a couple of dodgy boxing promoters, an old time Russian/Uzbekistani gangster, crazy bookies, amateur crooks, and ‘Jewish’ jewellers all fighting and scheming to track down a stolen priceless diamond. This movie’s cast is loaded – Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Farina, Rade Serbedzija and some others. And the best bit about the movie is all the cool names that everyone seems to have. You’ve got Turkish (Statham), Franky Four Fingers (Del Toro), Bullet tooth Tony (Jones), Cousin Avi (Farina), Boris the Blade (Serbedzija), Gorgeous George (Adam Fogerty), Brick Top (Alan Ford), Doug The Head (Mike Reid), and a lot of other cool names bore by minor roles. The movie’s got great cinematography too; you can actually see Guy Ritchie maturing as a director – he uses frenzied images, slow motion, and innovative shots pretty well. The music score in this movie is pretty out-of-this-world too. It is well suited for each scene, and creates just the right feeling, so that each time, you never lose the sense that you’re watching a gangster flick.
I’ve watched this movie so many times that I can quote every speech. The movie has so many punch lines, you wouldn’t believe. You wouldn’t believe Brad Pitt’s role in the movie as a pikey. In my opinion, that’s the best Brad Pitt performance EVER! Don’t take my word for it? You judge for yourself.
Layer Cake (2004)
Adapted from the novel by J.J. Connolly (an author you should check out, by the way) into the screenplay by the same and directed by Matthew Vaughn – who happened to be Guy Ritchie’s old time buddy, as well as producer of most of all his films – Layer Cake is Matthew Vaughn’s directorial debut. And oh, what a debut!
The movie is about a successful drug dealer (Daniel Craig), whose name is never mentioned throughout the movie, who on the day of his early retirement from the dirty business, is given two assignments by a powerful mobster, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham): find Charlie (Natalie Lunghi), the addicted daughter of his associate, Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon), and negotiate a drug deal involving a million pills with the stupid small-time gangster, Duke (Jamie Foreman). Of course things go awry, and our unnamed drug dealer is sucked in deeper than he planned, and things get really messy. And by messy, of course I mean bloody.
At this point, I should tell you Layer Cake is one of all my favourite movies EVER! But it’s grossly underrated, as far as I’m concerned. The cinematography (by Ben Davis) is out-of-this-world. And the music score? Gawd! Try having Ilan Eshkeri and Lisa Gerrard (one of my favourite singers EVER!) do a music score for your movie. It kills – almost literally! That’s what happens!
Layer Cake isn’t your ordinary gangster flick; it’s got this dramatic, lush scenery delivered with grandee fierceness. I don’t even know what on earth that means, but that’s just how best I can describe it. Frankly, I can go on and on about this movie, but I’m going to hold myself; I just told you, it’s one of my favourite films EVER! But there’s a scene where Morty (George Harris) beats this homeless junkie into a pulp; I bet you, you never saw a colder, crazier, and innovative beat-up in the history of beat-ups in movies. No kidding!
Crime, Action, Comedy
The philosophy of the main character, Frankie (Danny Dier) in this movie pretty much summarises the plot of this movie – Better to be someone for a day, than no one for a lifetime. And I must say, I have to agree. However, I don’t travel to Spain and join a gang of drug dealers; which is exactly what Frankie does in this flick. The movie is set in the 80’s, in the high temperate region of Malaga, Spain. Leaving the craziness of South London streets, Frankie travels to this wuchmacallit – Costa Del crime to deliver some cash to this ex-con drug dealer, Charlie (Tamer Hassan). This trip changes his life for all time, as he gets his wish to play in the high stakes of the crime world. He becomes a member of the gang led by Charlie and his psycho-sadistic partner, Sammy (Geoff Bell). He starts to enjoy life to the fullest: the money, drugs, sex comes in waves, and he is loving every damned minute of it. But then, the tables turn.
The movie is written and directed by British director Nick Love (solid, solid director); and the thing I liked most about this movie, besides the 80’s setting – where you hear all the cool sounds of the time – is that it, like most British flicks, doesn’t have that phony-smoothness of mainstream films. This movie is sort of raw, unrefined. The acting in it isn’t Oscar material or anything, but that’s the beauty of it. Hollywood movies can get boring at times; sometimes you just wanna see something brutal but real. In this movie, you see a bunch of gangsters wearing tennis clothes, shorts and everything – ‘cause of the weather and all – and still packing heat, and still blowing people’s heads up! Only in a British flick!
Green Street Hooligans (2005)
Written by Lexi Alexander, Josh Shelov and Dougie Brimson, and Directed by Lexi Alexander; the movie is about this kid (Elijah Wood) who’s wrongfully expelled from Harvard. He moves to his sister’s (Claire Forlani) place in London, and he is immediately introduced to the violent underworld of football (soccer) hooliganism. In this movie, you see the real streets of London, its pubs, and the hardcore mentality of football followership at street level.
You watch this movie, and all you’ve got to say is WOW! The movie’s so brutal you wouldn’t believe it. And the directing by Alexander (a guy you ought to watch out for) is so brilliant in depicting real football hooliganism. You’ll even start understanding why those hooligans are so mad about football. The movie makes football hooliganism almost into something so noble and honourable, like defending one’s country in a war or something, no kidding! Not that it glorifies it, not really, but you get to appreciate the world where these hooligans are coming from, being that that’s all that they know.
And you gotta appreciate Elijah Wood’s role in the movie. I like movie roles that depict an actor in a different light from what people are normally used to seeing of him. Wood is brilliant and completely believable in this movie. This is the kind of movie you want to watch again and again. And it’s touching too. If you’re the crying type, you might wanna have your tissue-box close by. No kidding!
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, and directed by Edgar Wright, this film is about a London hero cop (Simon Pegg) whose jealous colleagues conspire to have him transferred to a small town; you know, as a result of his taking all the shine. He arrives at the station in this small town, and is paired with a fat “idiot” of a cop. Just when he thinks that there’s nothing this town has to offer crime-wise, it doesn’t take too long before he begins to think different, and to find that perhaps this might be the biggest case of his entire career.
This movie is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever watched. It’s more like a spoof spin-off of most of your classic Hollywood cop-partner movies. Yet it’s so full of unpredictable action. I like the fact that Simon Pegg who also co-wrote the movie plays an intense role as the confident, fear-nothing cop. The highlight of the film for me is Timothy Dalton’s appearance. Up until I watched Hot Fuzz, I had been wondering where the hell the guy was, and he was quite impressive in the film too. He showed his critics, you might say. A lot of people think he sucked as James Bond, but I don’t agree. He was just a lot more, howshoulda say, believable? The thing I also like about this movie is how the plot keeps shifting – one moment you think you’re watching an Action/Comedy, next thing it turns into some kind of Crime/Detective Drama, and then Mystery. Its name is well suited, Hot Fuzz – definitely one of the best British flicks around.
In Bruges (2008)
Crime, Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh, the movie is about two hitmen (Collin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) who, after a terrible assassination job back in London, are sent away by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to Bruges, Belgium to cool off. Now in Bruges, they begin to philosophise on all life’s important questions. After watching this movie all I could say was, wow! One of the most brilliant movies ever made this is – the dialogues; the performances by these three awesome actors aforementioned, especially Fiennes; the music score by Carter Burwell; everything! The movie was nominated for an Oscar, in the Best Screenplay category. Starting even only with its opening lines, the movie immediately gets you;
Ray (Farrell): After I shot him, I dropped the gun in the Thames, washed the residue off me hands in the bathroom of a Burger King, and walked home to await instructions.
Shortly, thereafter the instructions came through – “Get the f*@# out of London, you dumb f*@#s. Get to Bruges.”
I didn’t even know where Bruge f*@#ing was.
It’s in Belgium.
That stuff killed me!
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Crime, Drama, Romance
I feel its befitting to end the list with this movie, because it is such a great one. Directed by Danny Boyle who won an Oscar for Best Director for the film, and written by the talented Simon Beaufoy, who adapted it from the novel by Vikas Swarup, this is a film about a teen (Dev Patel) from Mumbai, India who grew up in the slums, from whence came the term ‘Slumdog’, and became a contestant on the Indian version of the show “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” and not only that, he wins the highest prize on the show. Suspected of cheating, he is arrested and interrogated. Events of his life story in the slums are shown which completely explain how a kid from the slums of India happened to know all the answers to the questions on a show that even professors never correctly answer all. I tell you, this movie is so moving!
It is in my opinion that if a Hollywood director (with the exception of a few) had handled this movie, he would have messed it all up. They had to shoot the movie in the real dirty slums of Mumbai – not like in those phony studio set designs in Hollywood movies. The movie has that grime and reality, which is unique to British works. To maintain the true nature of an Indian slum in its cinematography, director Danny Boyle had to bring in the expert Loveleen Tandan, an Indian director to co-direct with him (a lot of people don’t know this). The unforgettable lead character Jamal K. Malik played by Dev Patel is so strong and believable. A lot of people don’t know that Patel was born and brought up in London!
The movie, at the 81st Academy Awards won 8 Oscars, including Best Directing, Best Picture, Best Music Score, and Best Screenplay. If you’ve not seen this movie, well, you should. But I warn you yet again, if you’re the weepy type, get your tissues ready!
Trainspotting (1996) by Danny Boyle
Sexy Beast (2000) by Jonathan Glazer