Gangsters, Gamblers and Geezers doesn’t so much revel in the cliches of British gangster movies as tear through them with the gleeful abandon of Danny Dyer ploughing a black Range Rover through a china shop.
The debut feature of Amar Adatia and Peter Peralta, Gangsters, Gamblers and Geezers is just the latest in the grandest tradition of English comedy. Defying reason, taste and anything approaching the cinematic language, it instead speaks ‘English’ in the most fundamental sense of the word – in the wholesale rejection of an appeal to quality or originality it becomes an art brut expression of our national character.
Imagine: the tortured fever-dream of an adolescent Guy Ritchie, a young lad force-fed ayahuasca in the Essex countryside one balmy summer’s eve. His consciousness lurches two score years into an ineffable future, swirling through a vortex of sawn-off shotguns and aggressively bald Cockneys and the word ‘cunt’ until it all rushes back with the crackle of a freshly lit B&H Silver.
“What did you see, Guy?” his fresh-faced compatriots ask as they stand over his prone body, the silver moon reflecting off the assorted signet rings. He scrabbles for a scrap of paper, his hand barely steady as he scratches out all he can recall of the ethereal figures who spoke to him in a language incomprehensibly his own: ‘gangsters…gamblers…geezers.’ He collapses, his spirit spent.
Gangsters, Gamblers and Geezers doesn’t so much revel in the cliches of British gangster movies as tear through them with the gleeful abandon of Danny Dyer ploughing a black Range Rover through a china shop, where every porcelain dish and dainty tea set is some semblance of tact and nuance.
Jodie Marsh is the personal trainer in a ‘getting hench’ montage. Richard Blackwood is a Nigerian landlord whose accent leaps effortlessly from the Ivory Coast to the Caribbean and back again in a single bound. Big Narstie plays Dave Courtney’s bodyguard.
This film is, in many respects, wholly beyond critique. It is so much of itself that it allows no chink of analytical light to enter, a black hole of its own devising which has drawn in every aspect of the very world it seeks to replicate; a mirror turned upon itself. There is a character whose name is ‘Paddy the Thieving Gypsy.’
The plot, briefly summarised, is thus: Krish (Amar Adatia) and Lee (Peter Peralta) lose their jobs at a call centre, and then have 48 hours in which to get the £600 they owe for rent. To this end they borrow a sum of money from their parents in order to start an ‘import/export’ business, and hilarity duly ensues.
Our boys break up and make up, pine after and then get the girls, learn lessons about life and money and so forth which we would all do well to take to heart. Liz McClarnon plays a gangster’s girlfriend.
The film is full of lingering shots of women; huge fake breasts and skin tight dresses and plump pouting lips daubed the red of lamb’s blood. Yet there is somehow nothing lascivious or leering in this. It is the desperately innocent and yearningly pure sexuality of the teenage boy, a lust realised with such Platonic idealism that it escapes the grime of sweat and bodies to become something wholly chaste. At one point the boys turn to prostitution; their sole assignment consists of being horsewhipped by a midget on a spotlit stage.
Far more than Guy Ritchie, really, this film owes its heritage to Benny Hill and Some Mothers Do Ave Em. It is in a British tradition which arcs back to Chaucer, this repurposing and reshuffling of clichés and stock images to pull audiences into the warm embrace of the familiar while also being constitutionally incapable of not making jokes about vaginas.
Gangsters, Gamblers and Geezers is a bad film – a very bad film, by any standard metric – but if a historian were to unearth it a hundred years in the future and say “was this you?” who would we be to deny it? 1/5