EIFF 2014 – The Guvnors
Written and directed by Gabe Turner, The Guvnors is a violent thriller set among the gangs of South East London as two generations battle over control of the area as events force the old rulers to come out of hiding to teach the youth a lesson when they go too far.
There are two protagonists in this film, Mitch (Doug Allen) and the young Adam (Harley Sylvester). Mitch represents the way things used to run but is in a position where he has left the old ways behind to pursue a safe career and raise his son with his wife. There are shades of his old life in him which is shown through his short temper and generally being tough on his son but there is a sensitive side to him shown by his devotion to taking his son to football matches.
Adam is similar except he fulfills the role that Mitch did many years ago, he is very much the Alpha male of his gang and rules over the area using violence and intimidation. Like Mitch, he has a sensitive side and is raising a son alone. He is dedicated to his son and seems to genuinely want to shield his son from what he does while providing the best life possible.
Both characters are nicely layered and are both likeable and unlikeable in different ways. Both Mitch and Adam are really scary people when pushed, projecting an air of authority though fear. The story sets up Mitch to be the hero, if such a thing in this world exists but there are arguments for Adam being heroic in his own way. It’s anecdotal that The Guvnors ruled with much less violence but the film leaves it ambiguous as to whether that’s actually true.
In terms of story the film is well put together, The Guvnors are introduced subtly starting off as whispers before they are slowly brought back together which results in some really entertaining “getting the band back together scenes” which show a massive amount of camaraderie that has been sullied by years of no contact from Mitch. There’s a nice juxtapostion of the old ways shown through flashback and the new ways shown by the present day plot. There is a big plot contrivance that seems all too convenient and makes the story suffer slightly.
Make no mistake, this film is violent and heavily unsettling in places but it never really glorifies any of it. The violence is continually portrayed as horrific. Since most of the violence we see comes from Adam and his gang I found myself rooting for Mitch and The Guvnors since they were forced back into action by a great injustice.
The acting was very strong from all concerned, including a tolerable turn from the child actors playing Mitch and Adam’s sons. Doug Allen and Harley Sylvester played their roles beautifully with the appropriate levels of thuggish menace and human sympathy coming from each. Other highlights included David Essex as Mickey and Jay Simpson as Neil. All of the cast were strong but those were the highlights.
Overall, this film was excellent but a little too violent in places. Perhaps the point was to shock but it felt gratuitous. There were also some plot contrivances that spoiled the story some but I won’t spoil that. Well worth checking out despite the minor issues.