Given the seemingly never ending popularity of the Brit gangster film, it was always inevitable that sooner or later someone would take the next logical step and combine it with the horror genre. “Dead Cert” does just that, following in the footsteps of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez’s classic “Dusk Till Dawn” by throwing vampires into the mix. Directed by Steve Lawson (“Just For The Record”), the film comes with a cast list that reads like a who’s who of Brit genre talent, including Craig Fairbrass (“Rise Of The Footsoldier”), Billy Murray (“Essex Boys”), Dexter Fletcher (“Kick-Ass”), Steven Berkoff (“44 Inch Chest”), Dave Legeno (“Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince”), top character actor Jason Flemying (“Clash Of The Titans”) and even a bonus in the form of a cameo, from the one and only Danny Dyer (“Basement”). The film now arrives on DVD via Momentum Pictures, coming complete with a making of featurette and audio commentary.
Fairbass plays the titular Freddie ‘Dead Cert’ Frankham, a former crook trying to turn respectable and take a few steps up the ladder by opening up a sleazy London nightclub. Unfortunately for Freddie and his various underworld pals, said club just happens to be on the site of an ancient Black Church, established back in the 17th Century by a Romanian vampire warlord imaginatively called The Wolf. On the opening night of the club the evil one returns in his new guise as a feared Romanian drug lord, determined to rest his former seat of power back from Freddie and his goons and start an all new reign of darkness.
“Dead Cert” certainly gets off to a very familiar, cockney gangster start, with all the usual dodgy geezers, shady schemes and underground fight rings. Indeed, for nearly the first hour, aside from a few brief flashes of vampire action and hackneyed hints at the coming evil, most viewers would be forgiven for forgetting that they were watching a horror film at all. Although interesting enough, during these stages the film moves too slowly to really engage, and whilst there is something to be said for setting the scene, Lawson takes needlessly long to get to the real action, perhaps mistakenly believing that the characters’ generic troubles are involving.
The film definitely takes itself way too seriously, and given the daft high concept premise it could have, and should have been a lot more fun. Once things do finally kick off, the blood flows reasonably freely and there are a few gory thrills to be had, though even then there is a sense of unnecessary restraint that prevents the film from really cutting loose like the Brit version of “Dusk Till Dawn” that it so obviously wants to be.
It’s not all bad news, as a decent budget and production values give the film a more professional feel, with the special effects being generally quite reasonable, if a little sparsely used. The cast are all on passable form, and do help to lift the material a few notches above direct to DVD shlock, though sadly Danny Dyer only shows up for a few seconds in a pointless role that could barely be called a cameo. Predictably, Lawson’s direction is very much Guy Ritchie and Tarantino-lite, with the expected mix of grit and flashy editing, and with most of the violence being characterised by over use of slow motion. Many scenes are lifted shamelessly from “Dusk Till Dawn” and the likes of “Snatch”, and this robs the film of any real sense of its own identity. As a result, its various elements never gel, and rather than a genre blending thriller, it comes across mainly as a standard gangster flick with a few dashes of random horror thrown in.
Although this is not to say that “Dead Cert” is actually a bad or incompetently made film, it clearly represents a missed opportunity. The Brit gangster drama is a genre very much in need of originality, excitement or over the top thrills, though sadly Lawson is only able to serve up a po-faced and unambitious piece of film making which fails to make the most of its potentially wacky premise.
Steven Lawson (director) / Ben Shillito (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Flemyng … Chelsea Steve
Danny Dyer … Roger Kipling
Janet Montgomery … Giselle
Dexter Fletcher … Eddie Christian
Dave Legeno … Yuvesky
Craig Fairbrass … Freddy ‘Dead Cert’ Frankham
Billy Murray … Dante Livenko
Steven Berkoff … Kenneth Mason
Andrew Tiernan … Chekha
Lisa McAllister … Jen Christian