Written by: Ben Shillito, Steven Lawson, Nick Onsloe, Jonathan Sothcott, and Gary Charles
Directed by: Steven Lawson
Starring: Craig Fairbass, Billy Murray, and Lisa McAllister
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
It’s time for an underworld showdown.
Since it looks like vampires are destined to tangle with anything and everything, it was probably only a matter of time before someone matched them up against gangsters. Dead Cert does just that by taking the crypt dwellers into the criminal underworld, which means we get two oversaturated trends for the price of one. As it turns out, throwing together the two exhausted genres doesn’t really do either much of a favor.
Freddie Frankham is a London mobster who’s attempting to ascend the ranks by establishing his nightclub. Unfortunately, he’s built his empire of sleaze on the hallowed ground of rival mob boss “The Wolf” (Billy Murray, who is sadly neither Bill Murray or Harvey Keitel), who also happens to be a 500 year old vampire. After he rolls into town and targets Freddie’s club for himself, “The Wolf” ignites a mob war between each side.
Dead Cert is another in a long line of movies that comes up with a cool idea and is just content to coast on the premise. It can boast about throwing gangsters and vampires together, and that’s about it. Really, it just feels like a ponderous, generic gangster movie that drowns you in exposition by making the usual references to some ongoing mobster scraps that we’re not really privy to. This doesn’t establish characters as much as it assures us that everyone involved has seen some gangster movies, so there’s some typical mob methodology being tossed about. You’ll be left wondering just where the vampire element is for about thirty minutes, as you’re only given a couple of clues pointing to their existence--a shady looking dude in a dark alley, some swooping POV shots, etc. When a creaky old guy (who is eventually revealed to be a vampire hunter) finally wanders into the club and warns everyone that they’re all doomed, we can only hope he’s right.
He is, of course, because “The Wolf” shows up and lets his intentions be known--he wants this club, and intends to get it by setting up a pit fight between one of his muscle men and Freddie’s brother-in-law. That’s actually a wonderfully ridiculous conceit, and I wish director Lawson had kept making that type of movie; instead, Dead Cert just continues to lurch along as low-rent hybrid of Guy Ritchie flicks and From Dusk Till Dawn. The characters are particularly lame. We’re apparently expected to like Freddie not because he’s charismatic but because he and his wife are struggling to conceive a child. Plus, he’s got a lot of half-cocked notions of honor amongst thieves. His vampiric codger antagonist carries himself with the menace of a slightly nefarious country club president, which is terrible.
The worst part is that Dead Cert just wants us to sit around and listen to everyone talk, which just kills the film’s momentum. Once Freddie and company figure out they’re dealing with an undead menace, they have to listen to their vampire hunting cohort explain all the rules. Storytime drags on as he explains all the various methods he’s tried over the years to rid himself of “The Wolf,” all of which have obviously failed since he’s still roaming about. At any rate, the film does some admittedly different things with vampire lore, particularly in the way vampirism gestates like a disease--it could take someone years to fully turn undead here. Everything else is standard though, especially the gangster vs. vampire set pieces, which basically deteriorate into a bunch of limply-staged throat-rippings and heart-stakings (in fact, I’m pretty sure this film features more stakes-to-the-heart-per-minute than most vampire flicks).
The ultimate fumigation method that’s settled on is ripped off from another movie, which speaks to how typical it is. It isn’t an aggressively terrible movie, merely an unremarkable one whose slick visuals and abundant gore gags can't overcome its languidness. Shout Factory will be releasing it to DVD and Blu-ray on September 27th; the standard def offering is a fine disc that boasts a strong anamorphic transfer that allows the vibrant color palette to shine; likewise, the 5.1 soundtrack is suitably dynamic and loud. I kind of wish there would have been subtitles because some of the Cockney and Romanian accents are pretty thick. Bonus material includes a 30 minute making-of feature with the cast and crew, who discuss the process of making the film, and it’s interspersed with some behind-the-scenes footage to boot. There’s also the film’s theatrical trailer and a commentary track with Murray, Fairbrass, McAllister, and producer Jonathan Sothcott. The release itself is fine, even though the film on the disc poorly imitates both genres that it’s mashing up. If you’re a fan of either genre, you’ll probably want to give it a look, but I’m dead certain it’ll melt away faster than a vampire soaked in holy water. Rent it!
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