Friday, October 01, 2010

Dead Cert – review

Director: Steven Lawson

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

I was looking forward to Dead Cert, eastern-bloc gangsters muscling into London’s East End with the twist that they were vampires.

There was little in the way of initial buzz, however, and then the flick went straight to DVD and I started to worry a little. Having watched it now I can say it was a missed opportunity; lore, characters, grittiness and story – they could all have been expanded on.

We start with a bare knuckle fight. Dennis Christian (Danny Midwinter) is fighting and wins. In his corner is his brother-in-law (kind of, by the credits he and his partner may not have been married) Freddy “Dead Cert” Frankham (Craig Fairbrass). After the fight he is approached by Dennis’ brother Eddie (Dexter Fletcher) for a favour. The next night is the opening of Freddy’s new club and he wants to bring some business associates.

Freddy lives with Jen (Lisa McAllister) and they are trying for a baby – a plot that sort of hung there and wasn’t exploited at all. He has started having (supernaturally inspired) nightmares. The club, Paradise, is a lap dancing joint. Later we hear Freddy was a fighter and there is some indication he was a gangster but he gave it all up for Jen – again a wasted opportunity; they could have had him still a gangster and it probably would have run better with that sense of grey morality. No such sense of morality with Eddie, who kills a couple of guys for muscling in his business and puts a random girl out of her misery at the same time.

So who is the girl and what is the business? The girl is a random girl who saw a man, Chekha (Andrew Tiernan) and was immediately mesmerised by him and followed him – yes the mesmerism seems to be that strong and yes he is a vampire. Eddie finds her ripped up but alive (there is a thing in the papers about ripper like attacks). Given the film is bite, die (possibly of old age), turn we never do discover what happened to her. The business is bliss… a new drug and a wasted opportunity. The drug is a wonder drug and a major part of the story, it seems at first, and then it peters out into a dead end storyline. In a DVD insert it mentions that it is being distributed free (no it isn’t) and it “dulls the senses to anything supernatural” – so people won’t notice the massing vampires.

Okay, so Eddie takes the Romanians to the club, and Freddy realises the leader Dante Livenko (Billy Murray) is a wrong un. I was thinking where is the accent, as Murray did not try to put one on. The film mentions he has no accent – wrong he has a London accent – and he says he is from Romania and travelled a lot… hmm… not convinced. There is some argy-bargee between Dennis and Chekha over a dancer, Freddy kicks them out but then agrees to a meeting. In the meantime Dante mesmerises a pregnant woman, takes her off her husband and they both (husband and wife) die – just to show he is bad. At the meeting a bet is made, the club staked against three million pounds over a fight; Dennis versus (the vampire) Yuvesky (Dave Legeno). Dennis is quickly beaten and bitten and killed.

Another missed opportunity, Dennis seemed a central character but when he rises he is brain damaged and not really used to any form of effect plot wise. So the club becomes inferno, the lap dancers are turned into vampire whores and a fellow named Mason (Steven Berkoff) is revealed to be more than the squatter on the land where the club is, who was evicted, but the last of a Vatican order, the Heimdal, who was trying to keep The Wolf – Dante – from regaining his seat of power – the land the club is on. The subsequent raid by Freddy and his handy lads turns into a low grade From Dusk till Dawn - the attempt to stay gritty (when the film wasn’t quite gritty enough) failing where FDtD’s over the top attitude succeeded.

Lore-wise, we know they have no reflection, they can go out in sunlight (it would appear) and a stake to the heart or beheading kills them. They are affected by anything someone has faith in but that seems hit and miss and Dante seems generally immune. They need inviting in and are allergic to flowers with white bloom (like garlic) and Mason has put white blooms in the water tank to the sprinkler system – which is unfortunately broken. Later this is referred to incorrectly as holy water.

The acting was all of a certain competent level from actors used to playing East End wide boys and villains. The problem was it just wasn’t gritty enough, they should have really gone for the throat but somehow – despite some gore and an 18 certificate – it failed to do so. There are missed opportunities in the lore, if they wanted to be more fantastical, and, for instance, it mentions a character, Kipling (Danny Dyer), in the insert as a major player. In the film he is mentioned in awed tones a couple of times but his impact to the drama is minor at the very most.

This could have been fantastic, instead it is solid but below average. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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