It's a Crime Friller, Innit?
Martin Kemp's Top Dog is about as entertaining as one would expect from a film about English football hooligans (organised soccer violence), and to be perfectly honest, I didn't expect to get much pleasure from the film, as the idea of folk being violent to one another over a game baffles me. The two reasons I did watch was because Martin Kemp directed and it featured the talents of the wonderful Lorraine Stanley. Stanley only had a small role but the actress outshone the rest of the cast, as I'd expected.
Top Dog is about used car dealer and family man Billy Evans, a man who enjoys going to the footy then beating up rival fans. Billy is the leader of the Acton Casuals, or AC, as they prefer to be known, and when he visits his aunt and uncle at their pub, Billy sees them pay protection money to local hood, Mickey. Billy gets the excellent idea of using the AC to prevent Mickey collecting any more money from his relatives and in return the AC use their pub as a new base of operation. Mickey doesn't take it lying down and soon Billy is up that most proverbial of creeks.
Top Dog started off very shaky as we see an unconvincing Billy (Leo Gregory) decide to go from idiotic hooligan to even sillier wannabe gangster. The way this character was written just didn't seem plausible, as he happily faced down hundreds of psycho's every weekend, only to look as if he would burst into tears every time something went wrong with his dumb plan, which was almost everything. A few times we'd see Billy arriving like a king, arms outstretched, only to have his ass handed to him at every turn. That was all good and well, but his look of bewilderment after each defeat, as if to say "why is this happening?" was most annoying.
Other than writing I wasn't enamoured with, the cast put on a decent show, with some good performances that elevated the film quite a bit. Leo Gregory did well even though his character wasn't always behaving in a realistic manner, and after the first act--like with the rest of the film--he appeared to hit his stride. Playing bad guy Mickey was Ricci Harnett, and his character was probably my favorite. Harnett handled the Mickey character perfectly and put on a very effective scowl that would've frightened children. I was happy with the acting and as I'd previously mentioned, Lorraine Stanley gave a particularly good performance.
Because I hadn't seen Martin Kemp's last directorial effort, I was keen to see how he handled directing Top Dog. There were a few scenes that were noteworthy, like the baby being born as Billy's mate was being beaten to death. And Kemp also kept the action tight which is important when you consider this film's target audience. I doubt they'll be looking for Academy Award-worthy action scenes, which is just as well as they certainly didn't get any, but for what Top Dog was, it did provide enough entertainment. The ending was good and it was here Kemp showed some genuine flair for being on the other side of the camera. The film was left in such a way that part two is sure to follow, and if Martin Kemp ends up directing Top Dog 2, then I for one will be watching.
Review by Ed BlackadderShare: