Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Steven Lawson
Starring Craig Fairbrass, Janet Montgomery, Billy Murray, Dexter Fletcher
Cockney gangsters versus vampires: A sure-fire premise if ever there was one. Unfortunately, Steven Lawson’s Dead Cert fails to accelerate beyond mere banality. Brit low-budget fave Craig Fairbrass stars as ex-gangster Freddie “Dead Cert” Frankam, trying to make a living as a legitimate businessman through his lap dancing club in between backing his brother-in-law, Dennis (Danny Midwinter), in the odd bout of bare-knuckle fighting.
When a band of underworld Romanians, headed by the suave Dante Livienko (Billy Murray), show an interest in buying the club, they make Freddie a wager he simply can’t refuse: Dennis will take on one of Livienko’s goons in a fight, and if he wins, they get millions of pounds and the Romanians leave. If he loses, well, the foreigners get the club. Needless to say, said goon (and the rest of Livienko’s gang) is a blood-sucking vampire who makes short work of Freddy’s main man – going as far as putting him in a coffin, and it isn’t long before the club is turned into a seedy den and the dancers transformed into vampiric prostitutes — or dinner.
Unable to deal with his losses, Frankam gets the crew together to take the club back by force. Queue a From Dusk Till Dawn style vamps vs. humans death match for the final act.
The problems with Dead Cert are myriad. Outside of a few quite natural and humorous snippets, the script takes itself far too seriously for what it actually has to offer. Stereotypes are all over the place with some of the rapid-fire cockney dialogue proving hard to decipher even for a native Brit. Billy Murray as Livienko tries his hand at playing him with an ancient, powerful and worldly level of cool headedness but never really comes across as threatening; he’s merely an aging smartass. The rest of the cast deliver what they’re given pretty well, even if most of them are playing the type of role that they’ve done time and time again in the past. Straight-to-DVD favourite Danny Dyer shows up in the closing moments in a role that, quite frankly, has next to no point in being there whatsoever. It’s obviously a setup for a sequel, but the abrupt and unsatisfying nature of the finale leaves anticipation of that as the last thing to cross the mind.
The climactic battle between good and evil completely distills everything disappointing about Dead Cert. Besides a few splashy pieces of bloodshed and impalement, it lacks the all-out kinetics of the aforementioned Tarantino/Rodriguez offering that so obviously forms an influence – everyone just refuses to cut loose and really deliver the punch that the film needs to compete. With the finale featuring the club full of vamps being showered by blessed water (to which they’re apparently allergic), the toothy ones show next to no reaction beyond slumping to the floor as if they’d just fallen asleep. No frantic hissing, screaming, melting or anything else; it makes one imagine a rowdy party being dowsed with litres of Nytol.
Not to say that Dead Cert isn’t a technically competent film – it certainly has some chops in that department – but it lacks the necessary ambition to bring us anything new or exciting. Sporadically entertaining, it does manage to hold your attention with brief moments of promise; but by the time the credits roll, you’ll likely ask yourself “Is that it?” The answer: Yes. Yes it is; and you needn’t have bothered.
2 out of 5
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