Charlie (July 22/05)
There've been so many British crime flicks over the past few years - ie Gangster No. 1, Layer Cake, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, etc - that any newcomer to the scene must do something spectacularly innovative with the material in order to stand out. Unfortunately, Charlie - directed by Malcolm Needs - feels like a prototypical example of the genre, with the film's only saving grace an exceedingly charismatic performance from star Luke Goss.
Set in London during the 1960s, Charlie casts Goss as Charlie Richardson - a ruthless gangster who worked his way up from petty criminal to notorious gang leader. With the help of his loyal cronies, Charlie uses his cunning to get what he wants - and when that doesn't work, he thinks nothing of resorting to violence (torture, specifically). The bulk of the film transpires in flashback, as Charlie narrates the pivotal events of his past while standing trail for his atrocities.
Needs, who also wrote the film's screenplay, employs a disjointed structure in order to cover the most significant moments in Charlie's life of crime - a device that becomes a tiresome annoyance almost immediately. The non-linear storyline makes it virtually impossible to ever connect with anything or anyone, but worse than that, Needs never entirely gets inside Charlie's head (what is it that makes this guy tick?) Consequently, the character comes off as just another slick gangster, the kind that could only exist in a movie of this sort (this is despite the fact that Charlie remains one of the most notorious criminals in British history).
Needs' relatively subdued sense of style certainly doesn't help, nor does his reliance on genre cliches (ie there's a violent sequence set to an uplifting pop song). The end result is a movie that's surprisingly dull, Goss' star-making performance notwithstanding.