It’s unlikely that The Guvnors (2014) is going to be admitted to the canon of gangland crime thrillers in the near future. A middling script, poor direction and a varying array of stereotypical performances all contribute to the gathering inertia of director Gabe Turner’s sophomore feature (his first as scribe). The plot is so razor-thin, it can barely sustain the momentum of any action that the film puts forth. Purportedly, a generational battle of East London firms is in the offing, and at the head of each are two men who must confront their own choices head-on and decide whether they will rise or fall by fates of their own making.
In one corner of the ring we meet Adam (Harley Sylvester, of music duo ‘Rizzle Kicks’) a brutish upstart, at the head of the gang that runs his local estate. In the opposite is Mitch (Doug Allen), living in a comfortable suburban milieu, but haunted by the ghosts of his own transgressions of decades past. Mitch is quickly drawn back in by Adam’s own hunger for power, attempting to catch Mitch’s attention through attacking old members of his firm, the eponymous ‘Guvnors’. What ensues is ninety-five minutes of puerile grandstanding. The action kicks off from a passing comment made to Adam during a police shakedown, when one of the officers seeks to belittle him. By mentioning that Mitch’s old firm used to run Adam’s estate with power and respect, he naturally incenses the youngster.
From there, Adam’s actions all seem fueled by a desire to take down a man he has never met and who, in turn, has never posed a threat to him. Surely motives have been made of greater stuff than this. As a director, Turner’s eye continually pushes style over substance, favoring moody lighting and color-saturated frames over character development of any sort. The fact that this is his first screenplay becomes quickly evident with trite dialogue and action sequences the are in sore need of actual action. Even the climactic showdown in the final act barely registers any affecting violence; gangs of grown men beat each other up but with nothing approaching real consequences.
Suffering from poor plot construction, the actors’ performances suffer too. As a vehicle for Sylvester, this film works to his advantage: both he and Allen’s characters have decent, if predictable, layers and their respective performances as such read nicely onscreen. But the supporting cast is woefully misused; they become voices in a crowd rather than well-rounded people. What results is scene after noisy scene of East London tough guys sputtering off thickly-accented threats, rarely showing any discernible interest in the events taking place. The toughness wears thin rather quickly and remaining is a film that has been seen myriad times before. However, on this occassion all we are left with is the feeling that violence begets boredom and The Guvnors becomes instantly forgettable.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem