Some inspired moments of action, a forbidden Romeo and Juliet-style romance, and a number of solid performances make North v South a cut above recent British gangster films…
The latest British gangster film to hit cinemas, North v South is about the long standing rivalry between the North and South gangs of the criminal underworld. After an accident leads to an all-out war between the two factions, times get rough, extreme measures are called for and a young girl without a father finds herself in a world of gunplay. At the centre of it all are two star-crossed lovers who are hoping to get out of the predicament they find themselves before either one of them or both get killed in the process.
This year, we’ve seen a lot of rubbish from this particular genre with the likes of Assassin and Age of Kill yet they still keep coming. In the case of North v South, while it is marginally better than all those other films, that’s not really saying much. If you’re a fan of cockney crime lords and northern louts you’ll probably love this, but one can’t help but think that this strain of B-movie-style guns-n’-geezers trash has run its course. In the recent interview Top 10 Films conducted with star Charlotte Hope, she mentioned that this was an “urban thriller with a real heart to it” and that was what “made the film unique”. Even though there is that romantic element, it ends up taking a backseat to the gangland drama that’s happening, so as a result both Hope and Elliott Tittensor’s characters end up becoming not as fully-rounded as one would like. So as well as lacking brains, the film lacks heart also, but what can you expect within this genre?
However, there are pleasures to be found from some of the performances. Elliott Tittensor is perfectly likeable, Oliver Cotton being all mean and moody, and Steven Berkoff going for the full-on psycho scenery-chewing performance. The females fair much better with Freema Agyeman doing like she did in Netflix’s Sense8 by breaking away from the family image that she got attached with since doing Doctor Who by being ruthlessly kick ass as the icy cold enforcer, and Sydney Wade is perfectly charming as the orphaned protégé that Freema takes under her wing. Plus, Charlotte Hope does show promise here as a rising star, like she did in Game of Thrones, bringing the right combination of vulnerable and alluring, even if she gets some cringeworthy dialogue including “Terry was my god”, “You’re my world” and “I’m nothing without you”.
Whilst on the subject of female characters, the film thankfully doesn’t suffer from one of the biggest gripes that has plagued movies like these by having dodgy gender politics where you have scenes set in sleazy strip-club or creepy “male gaze” camera shots. This time, the female characters are treated respectfully and are given key roles; it’s not a tale solely of machismo. Also, there are some delightfully campy moments that, whilst ridiculous, are laugh-out-loud funny. Such delights include a Bond-style chase between a car and Gyrocopter, a man being torched with a flamethrower, and a Leon-style segment where Freema’s character trains Sydney Wade’s to kill. These are actually fun and enthusiastically rendered ideas and kudos to Steven Nesbit for trying them out, but it’s just a shame there are too few of these sequences.
If the rest of the film had this level of chutzpah, and wasn’t afraid of breaking the mould with more style and wit, it could have been a gritty treat. Yet as it stands, North v South suffers from the classic problem of being all style but no substance, being in one ear and out the other. The performances are pretty solid and it’s nowhere near as terrible or as ghastly as Assassin and Age of Kill, but overall, it’s still average at best and just proves that this sub-genre still has a lot to learn.
Written by Ryan Pollard
Directed by: Steven Nesbit
Written by: Steven Nesbit
Starring: Charlotte Hope, Freema Agyeman, Judith Alexander, Keith Allen
Released: 2015 / Genre: Gangster/Thriller
Country: UK / IMDB
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READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH NORTH V SOUTH STAR CHARLOTTE HOPE:
Charlotte Hope Talks About Working With Eddie Redmayne, Bedwarming In Game Of Thrones & Her First Lead Role