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Jack Said
UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Undercover cop Jack (Phillips) has infiltrated an east end gang, headed by the ruthless, gravel-voiced Guv’nor (Reid), whose daughters Natalie (Walker) and Natasha (Keatley) are being lined up to take over when he’s had enough.
When we first meet him, he’s covered in blood – most of it his own – and a semi-clad Natalie is strapped to a chair in a dingy warehouse.
Her life is in his hands and as he’s contemplating her future, Jack explains to her – or us – or both – how they came to be in that position.
Along the way, he befriended one of the gang’s top young enforcers, Nathan (Dyer), who double-crosses the bosses and ends up going on the run, begging Jack to protect his sister Erin (Ramnani).
Jack has his work cut out, trying to bring down the Guv’nor, protect Erin and watch his own back, while his police handlers turn against him, a rival Russian mob gets in the way and an upstart gang leader sets out to crush the status quo.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Whatever Jack Said, Simon Says No! (Not Simon Phillips – he’d probably say yes – I’m refering to the Simon of the children’s game)
First of all, with the plot reading like pretty much every other gangster film, it begs the question “why?” We’ve seen it all before – rival gangs – rival gangsters within the gangs – undercover cops – femme fatales – even patricide. This has nothing new to add to the genre.
So maybe it’s something about the presentation.
Certainly, the one original thing about this – the one thing this film does differently – is that no previous film-maker has gone out of his way to make a gangster film look cheap.
And if I’m honest, while these guys have succeeded in making their film betray its low budget, this doesn’t really work in their favour.
Not only is the story pedestrian and uninteresting, it’s delivered in a peculiarly contrived style – the narration is by Jack, as he describes to Natalie the events leading up to how he caught her – she knows – she was there!
There’s also little sense that these guys are true gangsters, rather than just playground thugs. Apart from a fleeting glimpse of some white powder and some heavies nabbing some notes from some ladies of the night, there is no sense of the scale of their business.
Technically, the picture quality is poor, the sound is – at times – unintelligible, the editing is immature, with almost every single line delivered on camera.
Apart from Simon Phillips, some of the smaller police roles and Danny Dyer (who’s playing, well, Danny Dyer), the rest of the acting is daytime-TV at best (not that I’d tell the actors, as they’re all bigger than me).
On that – how clichéd is it that every gangster is big and bald and the more senior they are in the mob, the deeper their voice. And to maintain an air of mystery, until the dying moments, all we see of the Guv’nor is his cigar in his hand – although this probably has more to do with the fact that Mike Reid died during the shoot, so another actor was brought in to voice some of the lines.

WHAT’S MORE?

This film is an example of the ever-growing trend of publicising what is essentially a straight-to-DVD film with a brief theatrical release.
National papers wouldn’t have reviewed this had it gone straight to DVD, so it’s a chance for the home entertainment release to piggy-back on the free publicity that comes from film-reviews and marquee profile.
The September Issue is another recent example of a week or two on the big screen to shift extra DVD units on a reduced P&A budget.
Here, though, given the response it in those papers that bothered to review it, short of the “any publicity is good publicity” argument, I can’t imagine that anyone will be thinking it was worthwhile.
As a sequel to an earlier film, Jack Says, no-one had heard of it. Now, as the film-makers enter pre-production on a third film, the critical response to this film might make it more difficult to get that off the ground.
But there’s always a sense in which low budget British film-makers, working outside the system, deserve a degree of praise for at the very least getting a film made and – more importantly – out there.

Opens nationwide 25th September 2009

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