“Villain” is a straight-up gangster picture in the modern British mold, Cockney hoodlums slinging slang, talking tough and when the need arises, breaking out the hammer and breaking heads.
Genre veteran Craig Fairbrass (“Get Lucky,” “The Hooligan Factory”) rumbles through a familiar underworld like a permanently balled-up fist, taking care of business in all the usual ways in a seriously unsurprising story of the ex-con-gets-out-and-gets-sucked-right-back-in formula.
Eddy has done his ten years, respected by other inmates, liked well enough by the guard who tells him “We’ll keep ya’bed warm for’ya” as he makes his exit.
Waiting for him at the gate is brother Shaun (George Ross, who co-wrote the script) and Eddy’s ’80s vintage Mercedes. Eddy rolls with the living arrangements — stuck at Shaun’s place with his mouthy, plainly drugged-up stripper girlfriend (Eloise Lovell Anderson). A visit to The Green Man pub, which the brothers co-own, financed by the sorts of “jobs” that put Eddy in prison, shows that Shaun’s let the place go to pot, letting the staff drink up his profits. And the raccoon eyes and constant sniffling tip our mug that his brother is taking what’s left “and stickin’ it up ya’nose.”
At least the car runs.
Eddy never saw the film’s opening scene, where two brutes were walking Shaun through a murdered-and-left-in-a-field threat. Things are bad, and just like that, Shaun has too grab his hammer and set to cleaning them up.
Sooner or later, the brutal Garrett brothers (Robert Glenister, Tommy May) will have to be placated. Somehow, Eddy’s got to keep clear of the law and stay legit if he wants to get back in the life of his estranged daughter (Izuka Hoyle).
None of this is out-of-the-ordinary in gangland films. The trouble is, we’re marched through it as if genre-demands are dictating every action and are the sole “motivation.”
Fairbrass spends twenty minutes showing us Eddy’s stoicism and forbearance, and then — BOOM, out comes the old ultraviolence. He’s doesn’t sell the characters rising fury.
The violence itself is brutal enough, shocking in the usual ways. Fairbrass, Glenister and May never let us forget what they’re capable of just by their presence.
A saving grace of any movie in this milieu is the Cockney slang, “getting out of the nick (prison), a visit from ‘old bill’ (cops),” a police informant is “a grass,” a shakedown is “the old Billy Boy turnout.”
It’s not enough to save “Villain,” but it and Fairbrass’s hulking presence make this over-familiar gangland lullaby worth a sit-thru, if not worth one’s undivided attention.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug use and some sexual material
Cast: Craig Fairbrass, Izuka Hoyle, George Russo, Robert Glenister ,Tommy May.
Credits: Directed by Philip Barantini, script by Greg Hall and George Russo. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:27