Once Upon A Time In London (2019)

Director: Simon Rumley.
Starring.Terry Stone, Leo Gregory, Jamie Foreman, Roland Manookian. UK. 1h 51m.

I have to admit that I was spellbound by the cover of this lovely movie, but within seconds of the opening scene I was soon knocked off my feet that this is basically a retro version of Rise of the Footsoldier! In all fairness I really enjoyed the footsoldier movies, they started out with a purpose and were watered down but they had their own unique, balls in your face charm and a recurring cast, although a few characters are a little bit different in this war time london escapade, the most notable is Roland Manookian usually he plays the role of a drugged up loser who basically a bit of a plonker but he’s resurrected as a psychotic killer who’s not afraid to bleed. It’s pretty interesting to see him take on such a grisly role, maybe the boy will go far.

The film is based on real people and events, mostly surrounding Billy Hill and Jack Corner, again much like Rise of the Footsoldier (2007), and possibly with as much dreamy fantasties. The film looks authentic but doesn’t feel genuine in any way, it certainly feels like a modern movie but with just a cosmetic change and some different clothes, which is a shame as it could have been a real opportunity to branch out and try something an off key. The film seems to be poorly researched but the delivery is bold, a bit too forceful at times, it seems the use of shouting and violence takes the place of intense drama.

Starting the 2 hour epic, director Simon Rumley paints a sombre picture of London with the rise of the infamous black shirts and general unrest in the face of a fascist Europe. But though this grime rises two characters, Jack Comer (Stone) and Billy Hill (Gregory) they slowly establish themselves as gangster kings of london, a gutterly self proclaimed title but they are happy to do everything to live up to the moocher. Over the years the pair were linked to smuggling, protection rackets, and heists, intimidation, fraud and more regularly a common garden variety of extreme violence.

For the most part the film plods along attending to as many details as it can, while not focusing in on particular ideal or era the storyline is more of a montage that tries to cover everything which means it goes at breakneck speed and gets watered down to a wishy washy mess that seems repetitive at times until the bitter end, when it starts to focus in on a particular heist and trial, and even this is badly linked together although the crowning on the cake is the arrival of two very familiar twin brothers so there’s hope that more will come from this era.

While I do often prefer the gritty drama, the type that gets under the skin, this never would have achieved this level, the actors are very much suited for the brash 90’s ex football hooligan crowd but I feel that most, but Gregory struggled with this change in direction. The movie could have utilised a touch of Guy Ritchie-esq flakiness, maybe a dab of dynamic cameras and energy, then the characters would have seemed a bit more settled into their roles, there’s nothing wrong with adding a modern twang on a historical era, a semi decent edge was created in Citizen Gangster (2011).

The soundtrack had some high moments, especially in the club scenes, and when any womanising is going the atmosphere picked up otherwise most of the film is pretty dry, but it continues to plod along not missing a beat but also not thrilling it’s audience, it’s a good solid movie but without flare, and while it’s a history lesson with some kicks, some may find it a tad boring, definitely not as powerful as some of the other roles this crowd have accomplished in the past.

Rating 4/10

RThe Krays (1990), Gangster No.1 (2000), Rise of the Footsoldier (2007) Rise of the footsoldier 2 (2015), Rise of the Footsoldier 3 (2017), Citizen Gangster (2011).

L – London Flicks, Gangster Movies, London Movies A-Z, Historical Biographies Vol 1.

5s – Terry Stone, Leo Gregory,

Post Discussion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.