He makes solid British B-movies — thrillers with a caper, cash, some cars, some cuts and gunplay, calling foes “c–ts.”
That’s all “Gunned Down” (re-titled “London Heist” for distribution on Netflix) is. It’s a formula thriller about heists and betrayals, with a twist here and there, and all of it co-written by Fairbrass — who knows his brand — and based on a novel he also co-wrote.
Nice work if you can get it, right? But in sticking to formula yet dispensing with a lot of details common to the genre, it’s not nearly as satisfying a heist picture as you’d hope.
The “formula” makes itself obvious in the first scene, a framing device that sees Fairbrass as Jack, bloodied and hurtling down some backroad, making one last getaway. The story is tucked inside that, what happened some weeks before.
That was the “last score” heist that he and three other “geezers” — in the British gangland sense (any tough guy) and American one (they’re mostly over 50, a couple over 60).
But the big haul is snatched from them after Jack’s Dad (veteran character actor Steven Berkoff) is grabbed, tortured and killed before he can launder the money. His mates (Tony Denham, Eddie Webber and Roland Manookian) won’t let him see the state Dad’s body was in. But after the funeral, Jack realizes the killers left his Dad’s cell in the garage where they ambushed him. Who’d he call? Who called him?
That sends our wronged robber and grieving son on the prowl. Lenny (Mem Ferda) is one suspect, a venal crime boss. Jack’ll need help from an old mate (James Cosmo) retired to Marbella.
And of course, the cops (Nick Moran) are on his trail the whole time.
It’s difficult to make a formula feel fresh every time out, and that’s what the formidable Fairbrass has run into in the films I’ve seen him in. Here, we see no plan-the-job scenes. We’re robbed of “getting the band back together” bits, the fussing over blueprints.
Don’t bother trying to reason through how he keeps getting away, skipping the country, fleeing an island for a continent and then another island, because that’s not-exactly-explained either.
The women are merely pawns — Jack’s wife (Nathalie Cox) and a young woman on his Dad’s phone (Katie Clarkson-Hill) — or faceless strippers at the club where a couple of confrontations are set.
What we’re left with is a couple of capers, a couple of shootouts and a bloody, to-the-death fight in the finale. And slang, lots of Brit-villain-speak about “blags” (jobs), trash talk about having the gall “to come in here and give it large” and Cockney rhymes about “dipping the Jack & Jill” (stealing from the till).
Moran, a veteran of the Harry Potter pictures and decades of character actor work, gets off the best line, about his long pursuit of “Jack Cregan and his merry band of piss-takers.” But aside from the slangy stuff, the dialogue is stock material — “overstocked” — the obligatory “We’re the same, you and me.”
Bloody hell, lads. You can’t come up with better “Dicky birds” (words) than that?
Come on, old son. I’m running out of patience that Ray Winstone-the Next Generation will ever make a movie that lives up to your screen presence.
MPA Rating: R for violence, language throughout and some sexuality/nudity
Cast: Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, Mem Ferda, Nick Moran, Steven Berkoff, Nathalie Cox and Katie Clarkson-Hill
Credits: Directed by Mark McQueen, script by Craig Fairbrass, Alexander Soskin and Chris Regan, based on a novel by Craig Fairbrass, Frank and Harper and Simon Eldon-Edington. A Lionsgate film on Netflix.
Running time: 1:35