I’m not really a big fan of British gangster films, they’re usually derivative and much too pleased with themselves to be entertaining. However, St George’s Day snuck up on me and surprised me in a big way. Not only is the film enjoyable, but it also has some scope – something which a lot of low budget British films lack.
Actor Frank Harper (Football Factory, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), makes his directorial debut with St George’s Day, and he delivers a film, which plays to his strengths (gangsters and football hooligans), but it also shows that he wants to deliver more than just another gangster film, upping the ante and moving into crime thriller territory, an area which is usually saved for US productions.
St George’s Day follows cousins Micky and Ray (Harper and Craig Fairbrass), two gangsters who have been sitting at the top of the heap for a quarter of a century. However, things turn sour when they cross the Russian Mafia. Soon they have the police on their tail and Russians want them dead. Things come to a head on St George’s Day, when England plays a crucial football match against Germany in Berlin.
Harper fills the cast out with a host of British ‘faces’ including the likes of Dexter Fletcher, the always wonderful Sean Pertwee and the classy Charles Dance, who bring a certain vibrancy to proceedings. Harper’s master stroke is taking the crew abroad to Amsterdam and Germany, where he is able to open up the scope of the film, making it more than just another “geezers with guns” enterprise. In fact, there are touches of Brian DePalma’s Carlito’s Way in St George’s Day, and while it may not hit the heights of that film, it is a noble aspiration.
There are a few niggles – it does tick the cliché box from time to time, some of the performances are uneven (mostly from the younger actors) and more time could have been spent on the police investigation led by Jamie Foreman’s character, Nixon. These problems are not enough to ruin the film, and while it may not be a masterpiece, St George’s Day manages to slay the competition in the Brit gangster sub-genre.