Boots Mason (Gary Stretch) is the heavy, an ex-con turned collector for a gangster. Or maybe it’s Anawalt (Stephen Rea) the gangster who is the heavy, since he runs Mason’s life. Then again, maybe it’s the vicious cop Dunn (Vinnie Jones) who is the film’s heavy, since the nasty bugger isn’t against punching people in the face, including women if it serves his purposes. Or maybe it’s just the movie itself that’s heavy. Or perhaps, none of the above? Eh, who cares. Let’s get to the review already, shall we?
Marcus Warren’s “The Heavy” qualifies as a crime drama, but it will never be mistaken for an action movie. Oh sure, the DVD cover has leading man Gary Stretch holding an awesome looking machinegun, but truth be told he only gets to fire that thing once and it’s at the very end of the movie. The rest of the film finds Mason doing Anawalt’s bidding while trying to reconnect with his family, made more difficult because his brother Christian (Adrian Paul) is running for Prime Minister, and Mason’s family wants him to offer up his body to keep the politician alive since the family’s golden boy is currently dying from a rare disease. Meanwhile, the film is intercut with Mason invading the apartment of a young American named Claire (Shannyn Sossamon), and as the film progresses, we learn the reasons why Mason is there.
“The Heavy” is fronted by leading man Gary Stretch, who began his career as a boxer and was generally considered the “glamour boy” of UK boxing. After retiring his pugilist skills, Stretch has found some success in the movies, most notably a co-starring turn as a baddie in the revenge thriller “Dead Man’s Shoes”, as well as an appearance in Oliver Stone’s epic bomb “Alexander”. Stretch is onscreen in “The Heavy” almost the entire time, and he does a decent, if not spectacular job. Stretch doesn’t exactly command the screen, but he surely has the physical presence to fill one up, though in this case he’s probably undermined a bit by a lackluster script from first-time writer/director Marcus Warren, who seems to be building towards a climactic reveal that, when it finally comes, is so poorly timed that the effect will probably be lost on most viewers.
Much of “The Heavy” is episodic in nature, and even though Warren employs non-linear storytelling by intercutting Mason’s interactions with his hostage Claire and events from previous nights leading up to it, the film nevertheless feels like its treading water. I wouldn’t say I was ever bored with the movie, but by the time the film hit the one hour mark, I was amazed just how little had transpired in the preceding hour. Surprisingly, the film is most effective when Mason is interacting with his family, in particular his efforts to see his mother, who hasn’t spoken to him since his imprisonment. The big black sheep of the family, Mason longs to return to the fold. The brother vs. brother scenes make up “The Heavy’s” best moments, thanks to a great performance by former “Highlander” star Adrian Paul, whose politician character is a thorough piece of shit from beginning to end. Props to Paul for playing such a non-heroic role.
Fans of action crime movies will come away grossly unfulfilled by “The Heavy”. While our hero Mason is very fit and can deliver a punch, he doesn’t really spend a whole lot of screentime delivering punishment. Amusingly, Mason gets his ass handed to him on a pretty regular basis, including at the hands of the vengeful Dunn, who sports a very long and nasty scar that has soured his disposition on all things Boots Mason-related. Early in the film, Warren throws in a gratuitous shootout between Mason and some gangsters that feels tacked on purely to increase the film’s skimpy bodycount. For a crime film, there is surprisingly very few bodies dropping onscreen, which I have to admit, is somewhat disappointing. And yes, the film eventually gets to the “one last job” cliché, which is, yeah, real original there, boys.
An annoying issue with “The Heavy” is the lack of follow-through. Sure, there’s a gunfight at the end, but it’s between two characters shooting at each other from across a room, a sequence stretched out thanks to some gratuitous use of CGI bullet effects. The rest of the film feels like one giant set-up for something that you keep waiting for, but never comes. Mason gets into a fatal gunfight with some gangsters, and you expect problems as a result, but there isn’t any. Mason gets literally strung up by some toughs, and you expect him to chase them down and exact payback, but he never does. Mason figures out who has been pulling his strings, and – okay, I have to admit, there is a pretty satisfying ending to “The Heavy”. Thank God for that, otherwise this would have been a total lost cause.
“The Heavy” lands on DVD April 16, 2010.
Marcus Warren (director) / Marcus Warren (screenplay)
CAST: Gary Stretch … Mitchell ‘Boots’ Mason
Vinnie Jones … Dunn
Stephen Rea … Anawalt
Shannyn Sossamon … Claire
Christopher Lee … Mr. Mason
Lee Ryan … Rubin
Adrian Paul … Christian Mason
Jean Marsh … Mrs. Mason
Sadie Frost … Dutch