[Update] It should be pointed out that the “sound issues” covered in the review are from the online screener and will not be present on the general release DVD of The Antwerp Dolls. Jake Reid spoke with MikesFilmTalk.com and explained the problem, so viewers will not “see” these when viewing the film. We apologize for any misconceptions raised by our review. Thank you.
Written and directed by Jake L. Reid (as Jake Reid) The Antwerp Dolls feels like a throw back to the 1980 cult classic The Long Good Friday (starring a young Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and featuring a brief glimpse of pre-Remington Steele/James Bond actor Pearce Brosnan and a pre- Casualty Charlie – Derek Thompson) With more than a nod and a wink to Guy Ritchie’s London underworld of colorful gangsters, this “new vintage” glimpse at crime in the capital is enjoyable if not a little disjointed.
In terms of tipping the hat to Ritchie, Reid uses a similar camera technique for filming actors shooting their weapons, a’la the 2008 film RocknRolla, where a small camera appears to be attached to the end of the gun for an extreme closeup of the actor firing the automatic rifle.
London gangsters aside, the plot, is for all intents and purposes a serious nod to all things Spaghetti Western, or to be more succinct, a variation on A Fistful of Dollars and its dividing two “families” to create havoc. While these villains do not kill each other off (Any further information is not forthcoming so watch the film.) there is a clear intention from a number of sides to do just that.
Tommy Callahan (Jason Wing) has made a deal with two brothers from Belgium who are taking great chunks of London real estate and they have attempted to pave the way with the local crime boss. Enter a group of lads, with inside information, who intercept the transaction causing all the parties to come unglued.
The first half of the film treads a little slowly as each player is introduced and backstories related. The Ferrino brothers, Ray and Max (Bruce Payne and Sean Cronin respectively) are showcased and their enforcer Marco, played with marvelous menace by Sebastien Foucan (Casino Royale, The Tournament) is shown as someone to be equally feared.
Cally, aka Tommy Callahan (Wing), who appears to be a throw back to the days of “The Krays” a real “effing and blinding” type of mobster who may, or may not, be winding down his little empire, attempts to learn who has thrown a massive spanner in his works.
Jake Reid has managed to make a “low/no” budget film (the estimated production cost was £100,000 or $151,000) look very impressive. Using guerrilla filming techniques and some special effects for gunshot wounds that look brilliant the film comes across quite well.
What Reid as writer does brilliantly is to depict the mentality and personality of underworld characters. Their bluster, bravado and bullishness is almost overwhelming and each player in this crime thriller pointedly plays for the overkill factor, with the exception of the two “foreigners” the Ferrino brothers and the accountant.
American audiences might well be shocked at some of the language, the “C” word is really frowned upon within US shores, but the earthy coarseness of the patter is spot on in representing the English “lower class” criminal fraternity. The film features a bit more reality based brusqueness with its main characters and does not rely quite so much on what is becoming a sort of standardized exported British cinema “mockney.”
That said, there are stereotypes on offer, for instance, Wing’s frozen visage; lips caught in a sort of half snarl, make his performance quite interesting and his delivery is pure “London barrow boy made good.” There is a good cross-section of players, the posh totty accountant Christy; who is a pure as the driven slush (played with cool conviction by Kate Marie Davies) and teeth-sucking Spacey (played with impressive authenticity by newcomer Jermaine Curtis Liburd) as well as “wide boy” Corey (Ashley R Woods).
At times the film does feel a little convoluted with too many twists and turns to take in. That said, the journey to the film’s conclusion is not a boring one and each character brings something to the table. As this is Reid’s maiden project, and one where Jake exceeds auteur status by also being credited as a stunt driver for the production, it is entertaining enough that one should keep an eye on this new filmmaker.
The Antwerp Dolls is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. There are a few issues with sound, with the score intruding in a couple of places and what seems to be ADR syncing problems. Overall, the film keeps the viewer’s eyes glued to the screen and while some of the acting feels a little OTT, it does sort of fit the verse that Reid has created. Keep an eye out for this one and give it a go.