Looking to marry the football hooligan punch ’em up with Daily Mail-baiting hoodie horror, Gabe Turner’s The Guvnors (2014) does at least prove that there’s still some vague spark of life in these two staples of low-budget British filmmaking. Whilst it often finds itself – knowingly or unknowingly – conforming to type, there are several commendable flourishes that raise Turner’s barrel of cockney monkeys above the Rise of the Foot Soldiers and White Collar Hooligans of this world. If nothing else, it also provides the conclusive answer to that eternal question – who would win in a fight between old school crooner David Essex and Harley Sylvester, one half of Brighton hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks. ‘Ave a bang on that.
The film’s Danny Dyer substitute – all new British films of this ilk must have one by law – is Mitch (Doug Allen), the former leader of an infamous South East London football firm called ‘the Guvnors’, who has since packed in the beating-others-to-a-pulp game in favour of a career in business and a quiet family life in suburbia. However, he finds himself dragged back onto the mean streets when psychotic young upstart Adam (an impressive debut turn from Sylvester) calls him and his past posse out, keen to supplant the man who is still regarded as a legend by those he didn’t kick the shit out of. It’s hooligans versus hoodies as Mitch sets about rounding up the Guvnors in order to face this new threat, with further aid and assistance coming from pugilist-turned-pig DC Meyler (Corrie star Martin Hancock).
A sins of the father narrative gradually unfolds, adding a welcome layer of depth (or at least the illusion of depth) to an otherwise fairly routine gangland thriller. Turner has admirably given a great deal of thought to his target audience, drafting in former firm member Barrington Patterson, Lock, Stock’s Vas Blackwood (aka Rory Breaker) and The Football Factory’s Tony Denham among other familiar faces in supporting roles. It’s all mildly amusing up to a point, but The Guvnors does unfortunately begin to take itself more seriously than it probably should as things get darker and lives are put in jeopardy. Turner’s third full feature – following footy-based docs In the Hands of God and The Class of ’92, which he co-directed with brother Benjamin – has style aplenty, from its sepia-tinged flashbacks to its pleasing use of ska and two-tone favourites, but falls just short of really giving two tired genres the almighty boot in the Jacobs they both need.