I had never even heard about Charlie ardson before I screened the DVD Charlie. By the looks of the front cover and the description on the back, I was expecting another British caper flick that aped such moves as Snatch and Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this was the life story of one of Britain's most notorious crime figures. His gang was only rivaled by The Krays, two mean spirited brothers from another part of England who also ran a large crime syndicate. I saw the movie on them back in 1990 and I found it a bit boring.
While the tale told in Charlie isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, the performance given by Luke Goss (who plays the title role) is truly awesome. Like all the great villains through history there is an amazing duality. He can beat someone senseless in one scene, then we see him helping someone he barely knows in another. It is this contradiction that so sums up this character-type.
No extras came with this DVD. Sadly, I think this could have used a “behind the scenes” featurette or maybe a historical, documentary-type look at the making of this film. I mainly say this because I think the character that Goss embodies is so interesting, and up until I screened this film I had never even known that this character existed.
Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.78:1. I think this film was obviously done a budget, but I like the way it looks. Making period pieces is never easy and doing it with a small budget (which I am just assuming this film had) isn’t helping matters. Overall, I think this film looks big and I also like the way that Luke Goss is made to stand out. He is shot in such a way that his image almost comes off the screen. It has what I can only describe as a stark quality. As a result it makes his performance and all the scenes that he is in, seem like at any moment violence might erupt.
Dolby Digital. English - 5.1 Dolby Surround. Sometimes when I watch movies like this and the characters have such strong accents, I actually put the subtitle feature on. I didn’t need to with this film. Even though the character’s accents were very strong, I didn’t notice any problem with being able to understand things. I think the use of image and sound (especially in the sparingly done slow-motion shots) really ended up contributing to the overall menace that this film projects. There isn’t an amazing sound design it’s just saved for the violent moments it seems. Yet, there are enough of them to make this movie seem very meaty in that department.
This is what is ultimately going to hurt this film. I don’t think enough people know who Luke Goss is to really rent this movie based on the large picture of him on the front of the DVD case. Also, this cover just looks cheap. It doesn’t even look like it was done with modern technology. It is a stark mixture of red and white and this carries over to the back cover as well. There are 3 pictures from the movie, a decent description of the story, a cast list and tech specs. I am not sure exactly what they could have done to improve the way this cover looks, but anything would be better then the bland, thrown together, first impression artwork that has been created here.
Charlie was an illuminating look at one of England’s most interesting crime figures. In the US we are so inundated with the Italian mafia (and more recently the Mexican and Asian ones), that I think we forget sometimes that our friends across the sea also have had their fair share of pretty decent crime bosses. I think what makes them seem so dangerous is our preconceived notion of who these crime figures are. They are so well spoken, so proper in so many ways that when they commit a heinous crime, or make the papers it seems especially startling.
Malcolm Meeds, who wrote and directed this film has created quite an achievement with his telling of the cautionary tale of Charlie Richardson. I look forward to seeing more of his work.