Directors - Steven Lawson
Cast - Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher
Country of Origin - UK
Discs - 1
Distributor - Shout Factory
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 2/5
Back in the day Frankie Frankham (Craig Fairbrass) was one of the London underworld’s toughest gangsters. Now he’s an older and wiser person and decides to leave behind a life of cracking skulls for the honest life of running his old gentlemen’s club, but he still maintains a tenuous connection to his old gangland compatriots, particularly his old friend Eddie Christian (Dexter Fletcher). But Frankie’s jubilation over the club’s success is short-lived upon the arrival into London of the mysterious Romanian Dante Livenko (Billy Murray). Livenko and his associates are peddling a new designer drug and want to use Frankie’s club as a front for their operation; more importantly they want to buy the club. Frankie is reluctant to sell until a fighter in Livenko’s employ beats his brother-in-law Dennis (Danny Midwinter) to death in an illegal underground brawl over who gets the club. Following the tragedy and Frankie’s loss of the establishment he worked hard to earn a stranger (Steven Berkoff) arrives with a stunning revelation regarding the elusive Livenko: he’s actually a centuries-old vampire and along with his vicious followers intends to turn the city into their new feeding ground. The task of destroying the clan of bloodsuckers falls to Frankie, the man known in the underworld as “Dead Cert”, and his compatriots and they must act fast because the streets of London are already flowing with blood and the tide is rising.
Crossing genres is never an easy task, especially when one of those genres is horror. It’s even harder to accomplish when your approach to the individual genres is so half-hearted the end result is a complete mess that will please no one except a few desperate gore fans scouring for new product like junkies scoring their next fix. I’ve never been a huge fan of British gangster films even though the original Get Carter is a stone cold classic and Guy Ritchie made his career doing them (whether that’s a good or bad thing I’ll respectfully leave up to you), but Dead Cert just never hooked my interest. I never cared about the characters or plot and the only time the movie managed to snag my attention was during the violent finale and any time Steven Berkoff, better known as the guy who spent the 1980’s giving James Bond and Axel Foley a hard time, shows up doing a third-rate Donald Pleasance impression as the weary vampire hunter and all-purpose exposition machine. The performances are nothing to write home about but they are good enough for the movie. Craig Fairbrass makes for a decent working class hero and Billy Murray is a cunning adversary. It’s just unfortunate that the worlds of the London gangsters and the vampires are so insular that we’re never allowed to have audience surrogates who exist outside both exclusive enclaves and can provide a better perspective on the on-screen action. For most of the final act Fairbrass, Berkoff, and several others spend time in a basement trying to make sense of the plot while the vampires barely make an attempt to stop them from escaping while Berkoff gives us the extended backstory on Livenko. If you stick around to the very end your patience will be rewarded with some much-needed vamp carnage, but by then it’s painfully apparent that this movie is no From Dusk Till Dawn. I wouldn’t even both comparing it to the direct-to-video sequels. At least they’re fun to watch and you don’t need to be versed in Cockney dialect to know what the hell the characters are saying.
Dead Cert is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2:39.1 enhanced for 16 X 9 televisions, and Shout! Factory’s video transfer, despite being otherwise unexceptional, services the film just fine. The picture is occasionally too murky and the lighting of the sets and exterior locations easily betrays the low-budget production. English 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks fare a bit better though at times the heavily English-accented dialogue is difficult to discern, making the lack of English subtitles a major strike against this disc. What the hell was Shout thinking?
An audio commentary that teams actors Murray. Fairbrass, and McAllister up with producer Jonathan Sothcott has few virtues but is mostly an uninteresting watch, although it certainly sounds as if the participants are having a wonderful time in the recording booth. The lackluster chat track is partially redeemed by a pretty in-depth half-hour “making of” documentary packed with cast and crew interviews and B-roll footage from the production. A theatrical trailer that does a slightly better job of selling the movie than it deserves rounds out the extra features.
Hybrid genre films only work if the genres being merged are taken seriously and one is never given higher priority over the other. Something tells me the makers of Dead Cert would have rather stuck to making a traditional British gangster flick in the first place because it’s that aspect of the movie that their hearts truly seem to belong to. Unfortunately they couldn’t even get that part of it right. The result is an interminable mess that manages to be sporadically entertaining for the majority of its running time, especially in the rousing and blood-splattered finale, but entertaining enough to redeem itself.