WHEN WE WERE KINGS

Another old T.M.I. post from April 2008. Apologies for any dead YouTube links.

Alexei Sayle once observed that, “There’s only one thing worse than British films -and that’s germ warfare.” If you amble around London’s stifling underground labyrinth you’ll eyeball one of the worst film posters known to man. At present, it’s a flop, but even if you saw the weak fonts, colours and slappable copywriting from Google Earth’s farthest reaches, you’d know it was a British comedy. Dreck. A waste of funding, equipment and resources. Worse still, just when the Guy Ritchieisms were put to rest, Nick Love, the appalling ‘people’s fimmaker’ peddles Daily Star revenge fantasies that shame the nation.

And for the yoof, ‘Kidulthood’ (soon to be given the sequel treatment with added Danny Dyer) was some Larry Clarke lite with added Rinse FM lite, and ‘Bullet Boy’ was the standard inner-city last minute murder straight-to-video style with some nice cinematography. Even ‘Rollin’ With The Nines’ idiotic bloodshed was better, like the kind of schlocky stateside hood flick that Gary Busey might make a random appearance in.

There’s been a further spiral in the last two decades. ‘Football Factory’ makes Queen’s heads, ‘London To Brighton’, suitably despairingly, makes lowly copper. Dark days. And the don behind that masterpiece of misery is making some sub-Comic Strip gore farce, and saddest of all, Neil Marshall, the genre director who balled hard on a budget has made the kind of flick that even Charles Band would baulk at. Poundland Mad Max 2’s are neither funny, ironic or clever. And using shit rockers Kasabian where Wil Malone and Francis Monkman once ruled the soundscapes is symptomatic of a far greater ill.

It’s not all bad. Shane, Ken and Mike still bring it, and it’s heartening to see Miramax pick up ‘Boy A’ from the Graudian reader chin stroke zone. And just out of interest, why does every ‘gangster abroad’ flick get compared to (the excellent) ‘Sexy Beast while Steven Frears’ incredible ‘The Hit’ gets little love?

If only Alan Clarke’s influence resonated as hard as Richard fucking Curtis’ when it comes to acquisitions and distribution.

But the production that preempts classic Hoskins airport strutting, much like Universal’s globe being irrevocably linked to Castro ranting and Moroder synths, is Handmade Films. Especially when the logo came at you like Rae’s ch-chick-POW sending the ‘W’ via Shaolin 3D in the ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ promo.

Beyond student favourites, gangster benchmarks and comedy classics, the company started by George Harrison and Denis O’Brien gave UK cinema a boost that offered overseas credibility as the Beatles did with homegrown music. On a smaller scale, naturally. ‘Nuns On The Run’ is crap, and while ‘Shanghai Surprise’ was atrocious, other co-American productions like the overlooked Nic Roeg flick ‘Track 29’ were interesting. Unprofitable and an assistance in the company’s financial decline, but fascinating nonetheless. ‘Time Bandits’, ‘Mona Lisa’ and massively underrated mega/gigaflops like ‘Water’ and ‘The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen’ (another nail in the commercial coffin) are always worth revisiting. You’ll note that they had their fair share of box office bombs.

Kid’s fantasies, psychological thrillers, satire, thugged-out Docklands decanter attacks, bedsit black comedy – not bad range for a company created solely to payroll ‘The Life Of Brian’ and its blasphemous content. Plus George got into a low level war of words with Terry Gilliam during ‘Time Bandits’, as he opted to sideline Harrison’s end credit song. A Beatle versus a Python, and George flipped the lyrics with a subliminal to point out that he could withdraw funding at any moment. Hardly Jimmy vs Tru Life – more a ‘Kick In The Door’ from a man who most definitely could have been flossin’ on the cover of Fortune.

Handmade has been resurrected lately, and in an ideal world that would give the industry a re-up, but some of the studio’s best work hardly set the box office tills a-ringing. Factor in the current crunch on credit and a Zoo/Heat generation expecting linear storytelling, a bumbling nitwit improbably pulling or some tasty fackin cahnt getting shoed and sliced, culminating in all story strands neatly tied up with a big pulsating CGI bow, it’s unlikely.