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Lacklustre addition to U.K. post-War 'Spiv' movie cycle
Unfortunately, documentary filmmaker Stefan Osieki's foray into fictional form results in a lacklustre addition to the U.K. post-War Spiv' movie cycle (a series of films with roots in the U.S. Gangster films of the 30s, but with a far more negative and unglamourised portrayal of their criminal protagonists). When over the hill former lightweight boxing champion Johnnie 'The Croucher' Thompson loses a fight and the sight of one eye to a younger opponent, he is forced to give up his ring career and retires on a pittance once his grasping manager has whittled down his purse and outstanding career winnings. Dumped by his brassy wife, Johnnie sinks to the bottom of a whisky bottle before being hoisted back on his feet by unsavoury East End villain Jack Sleat, whose girlfriend Beryl soon warms to Johnnie's innate good-heartedness (perhaps because he reminds her of the decent life she's left behind). When Jack gets wise to this burgeoning relationship, he seeks to set up Johnnie in a jewel robbery, and things take several turns for the worse for the various characters who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. With naturalistic post-War London street locations, complete with glimpses of the blitzed city settings, this is rooted in a distinctly grimy low-life milieu. However, it seems that director Osieki is more content with larding on the tragic grandeur complete with staging techniques out of Greek tragedy (e.g. offscreen confrontations with the forces of law and order, and an unseen jewel robbery - an influence on RESERVOIR DOGS, perhaps!), and a mise-en-scene which seems to be striving for an East End rendition of the French street poetry as evidenced in the likes of LE JOUR SE LEVE. Unfortunately, given its relatively routine tale, this film ultimately fails to exert much dramatic grip beyond the predictably melodramatic, and with little to lift it out of the ordinary, remains fairly run of the mill stuff and not a patch on the likes of other lesser known post-War U.K. 'Spiv' movies such as NOOSE or DANCING WITH CRIME. Still, relative scarcity makes it worthy of passing interest, even if the often low-key moodiness fails to engage the emotions over the relatively brief running time.
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