Micky Mannock (Frank Harper) has made a living as a gangster for nearly 30 years, and his partner, Ray Collishaw (Craig Fairbrass) has been with him every step of the way...until now. Ray's become antsy, looking to settle down with his gorgeous life and make an honest living for himself running a golf course in another country. Against his better judgment, Micky arranges a $50m drug deal with Russian gangsters, so that Ray can walk away from the business with a nice chunk of investment money, but when the drop predictably goes wrong, it sends Mickey, Ray, and their mutual friend Albert Ball (Vincent Regan) into hiding while they figure out how to deal with the Russians, a mole inside the gang, and a dogged police officer named Nixon (Jamie Proctor) with a thirst for Micky's blood.
There's no nicer way to say it: Berlin Job, or St. George's Day in the UK, is a dreadfully boring movie. Much like the American inspirational sports movie, the British gangster picture has been so thoroughly and completely run into the ground. Harper, not just the star but also the director and co-writer, has tried his best to cast the film with reliable British talent, shoot in locations that offer a little bit of scope, and create the kind of twisty plotline that these sorts of thrillers are required by law to include. It's not his fault that all of these double-crosses and the double-crosses that cross those double-crosses have all been done three times over, and are completely devoid of further interest.
For instance, just think of the mole inside Micky's crew. Could there possibly be a less interesting plot point for a gangster film to explore at this point? Is there any type of foreshadowing or suggestion that won't stand out to the audience like a neon sign, pointing directly at the culprit, even as the script tries desperately to draw attention elsewhere? The same goes for the guy trying to get out, whose one chance at freedom's going down the tubes, the rogues' gallery of friends and foes Harper lays out by name in his opening narration, the ingrained sexism of the genre, and on and on. There's no invention here, simply the same old standbys, reheated for another dish.
Worse, Harper doesn't seem to have much interest in making this kind of film in the first place, pushing faster pacing, action sequences, and witty dialogue to the side in favor of gangster politics. Over two-thirds of the film is spent watching the characters size up the chess board, considering how their next move will play out, all while Harper narrates in voice-over. Adding insult to injury, the character of Micky is also extremely unlikable, often taking matters into his own hands in exactly the kind of ugly, macho way one expects from the supporting character that's going to screw it all up. Slogging through an uninspired movie is hard enough, but an uninspired and aggressively boring movie with an awful protagonist is even tougher.
In the home stretch, Harper finally picks up the pace and digs into some more exciting material, but even his livelier elements are tired. One of Harper's big flourishes involves cross-cutting two scenes and trying to get the audience to think two sets of characters are in opposite locations. When your fancy send-off is one of the oldest tricks in the book, it's time to go back to the drawing board.
From top to bottom, the artwork for Berlin Job is pretty much a lesson in tricking the viewer. The front cover not only faintly mimics Lock, Stock by posing four guys on the cover instead of just the trio of protagonists, but also throws on a critic's quote that name-checks Ritchie's movie. Bright colors suggest a lighter piece than the actual film. On the back cover, all of the shots in question are taken from the last 20 minutes of the movie, implying the movie's more of an action-packed thrill ride than a bunch of gangster politics. The disc comes in a standard two-disc case which also houses the DVD copy. There is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Berlin Job's 2.35:1 1080p AVC presentation is mostly strong but is plagued with a consistent flaw. Fine detail is as sharp and well-defined as one expects from a 21st century feature, and daytime scenes generally look fine. Unfortunately, black crush consistently hounds the picture, especially during the first 20 or 30 minutes, which mostly take place at night with shadows that are completely devoid of nuance or dimension. There are also a select few shots that have the opposite problem, appearing washed out, but I'll write that one up as a quirk of the original photography. Some minor banding is also present.
An English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is fairly decent, but again, as this is not really the action movie the artwork suggests, there's not much opportunity for the film to show this off. Crowded parties and the occasional club scene offer a little directionality and ambience, and music fills out the surround channels a little, but for the most part this is thickly-accented dialogue, rendered with unremarkable clarity. The disc actually loses a few points for the captions and subtitles, which not only get at least a few sentences wrong (a reference to The Long Good Friday is rendered totally nonsensical), but even flat-out includes a few passages where the captions simply say "[inaudible]", which is pretty ridiculous.
Only one extra: "The Making of Berlin Job" (20:19, HD) is a bland and fairly generic look at the production of the film. Not too heavy on film clips, but not particularly interesting, either. An original theatrical trailer for Berlin Job is also included.
There's an untold number of great, good, okay, and even mediocre British gangster flicks worth seeing long before Berlin Job enters the conversation, and by that time, the viewer will already have seen everything the film has to offer, done better. Skip it.
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