DVD REVIEW: WE STILL KILL THE OLD WAY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: SACHA BENNETT / DOUGIE BRIMSON, SACHA BENNETT, GARY LAWRENCE / STARRING: CHRISTOPHER ELLISON, IAN OGILVY, STEVEN BERKOFF, LYSETTE ANTHONY, ALISON DOODY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There is a strong theme of respect running through the very heart of Sacha Bennett's old-school gangster homage We Still Kill the Old Way. When ageing East End bad boy Charlie (Berkoff) is killed by a gang of hideous hoodies led by upstart Aaron (the impressive Danny-Boy Hatchard in his début role) it’s up to his legendary brother Charlie (Ogilvy) to return from his Spanish sabbatical to exact bloody vengeance. After rounding up his remaining geriatric gang members, Charlie sets about doing just that using very traditional means while still finding time for a little old-fashioned courting with Anthony's Lizzie Davies.
With his sixth feature, Bennett seems to be targeting a piece of East London somewhere between The Krays and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels but sadly just fails to harness the essence of what made both of those films great. The vengeance Charlie's gang take is wince-inducingly brutal (particularly in a torture scene, reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs) but you get the feeling that any one of the gang could keel over at any time. The veterans may have their sights firmly set upon retribution but do they have they still have the energy for the task in hand? Similarly, while there is fun to be found in how the contrast of the two generations is portrayed, the humour feels somewhat forced and unnatural, and doesn't always sit comfortably with the acts committed on screen.
The biggest problem though is that none of the characters are at all likeable. The young vagabonds all need a damn good slap and the oldies seem a little too callously bloodthirsty to be at all endearing, as if they spend their remaining days prowling the back streets of London just looking for low-life to dispatch using a variety of general household implements. All the characters also feel a little stereotypical, reacting in ways you would probably expect and have certainly seen before. The performances are on the whole good, with Cosmo and Ellison providing a malevolent pensionable presence, but these are more of a footnote, with everything feeling a little too contrived and unoriginal.
On the plus side, Bennett has certainly captured a sense of the capital's underworld with the old ganglands looking as equally striking as they do menacing. The main theme is also generally well handled, with the contrast of respect earned and respect demanded to the fore, and though occasionally bluntly underlined, is certainly a worthwhile one.
Ultimately, We Still Kill the Old Way is a decent attempt at making a traditional gangster film with a modern, socially identifiable twist. That it doesn't quite succeed is a shame but it is still a film that is worth catching up with as it carries a little more nostalgic charm than most British films in the genre.