Brit-grit is the order of the day in this week’s DVD round-up.
Written by Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, The Great Train Robbery (Acorn Media) is made up of two overlapping films: A Robber’s Tale, which tells the story of the men behind the audacious 1963 heist led by Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans, The Hobbit); and A Copper’s Tale, which focuses on the team of detectives assembled by DCS Tommy Butler (Jim Broadbent, Moulin Rouge) to bring the criminals to justice.
Meticulously pieced together by Chibnall, The Great Train Robbery is an impressive undertaking, even if the dual narrative format does cause the pace to slacken as the exhaustive investigation takes hold. A Robber’s Tale -directed by Julian Jarrold (Red Riding, The Girl) -is easily the most satisfying segment of the drama, with an ensemble cast led by the charismatic Evans delivering the goods as the cunning plan comes together. Opening with a gripping pre-heist robbery in which a scaled-down version of the crew bludgeon their way through Heathrow Airport wearing balaclavas and bowler hats to the sounds of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman, the film gets off to a thrilling start, and the edgy mood prevails as the crime unfolds.
The second film, while no less impressive in terms of attention-to-detail, suffers in comparison to its glamorous, violent predecessor, with Butler’s no-stone-unturned investigation feeling like a bit of a slog. The ever-impressive Broadbent exudes no-nonsense attitude, and he refuses to give up on the investigation until he tracks down the slippery Reynolds. As the film draws to a close, their climactic showdown -in Torquay of all places -crackles as their contrasting approaches are laid bare. What A Copper’s Tale lacks in narrative flair it makes up for in arresting details, and the film will fascinate true-crime fans. Happily, The Great Train Robbery is enough to banish memories of Phil Collins in Buster once and for all!
In Vendetta (Anchor Bay) new Albert Square resident Danny Dyer (Football Factory) stars as Jimmy Vickers, a former Special Forces interrogator who goes AWOL from Afghanistan after discovering that his parents have been murdered by local criminals. Using his unique skill-set, Jimmy tracks down the culprits one by one and makes them pay for their actions. However, with the police closing in on his trail of mayhem and his commanding officer Colonel Leach (Vincent Regan, Strike Back, Lockout) desperate to track him down, Jimmy has to use all of his military training to evade capture long enough to complete his increasingly grisly mission.
As a regular visitor to Poundland, I am all too familiar with the downward spiral of Danny Dyer’s career in recent years (Freerunner, Deviation, 7 Lives, Basement, Pimp, The Last Seven), so Vendetta is a refreshingly abrasive return to form. Interestingly, rather than produce a slick Taken-style thriller, the filmmakers have concocted a wilfully vicious revenge movie that cranks up the nastiness at every opportunity. Although Vendetta lapses into amateurishness too often for comfort, it is a step in the right direction for Dyer after years of unadulterated dross. The ending hints at a shoddy-looking US sequel, but whether Dyer will attempt to get his movie career back on track or realise that he is onto a good thing and churn out a series of Death Wish knock-offs is anyone’s guess…
At the outset of Lords of London (Kaleidoscope) cockney gangster Tony Lord (Glen Murphy, London’s Burning) wakes up in an abandoned farmhouse, splattered in blood, with no memory of how he got there. He stumbles towards civilisation, only to find himself in an Italian village that seems to be lost in time. Ignored by the villagers, Tony gravitates towards a kindly older man named Francesco -a man with a tale to tell. As Francesco’s story unfolds Tony realises that his very existence is rooted in that village, and he has the opportunity to rewrite the course of history with his actions.
Previously titled ‘Lost In Italy’, Lords of London arrives on DVD with ludicrous photo-shopped artwork featuring a gun-toting Ray Winstone in a pose that has no connection to the film itself. Winstone and leading man Glen Murphy are childhood friends, and have worked together numerous times over the years, on the likes of Tank Malling and Robin of Sherwood. In Lords of London Winstone appears in an extended cameo as a young Tony’s father, and although his presence is arguably integral to the film, his involvement has been grossly exaggerated in an effort to shift DVDs.
The movie itself is a clumsy -ultimately forgettable -fusion of Nil By Mouth and the Butterfly Effect and ranks as a bizarre footnote in Winstone’s career at best. Aside from an unwatchable scene of teeth-ripping gangland torture, Lords of London is a strangely forgettable film.