It can't be said that director Paul Tanter has a fear of falling. Following Jack Falls (2011), The Fall Of The Essex Boys (2013) and The Rise & Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan (2012) comes his sequel to the latter, The Rise And Fall Of A White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away. Mike Jacobs - our favourite mobster with morals - is back, but will this second outing climb higher than its predecessor, or will it belly flop, taking a dive even Ashley Young would be proud of?
Mike Jacobs (Nick Nevern) is living the good life in Spain with a new identity under the witness protection scheme. However, when old enemies spot him at a Barcelona match they kidnap his pregnant girlfriend, telling him he has four days to pay off the gangsters or he will never see her again.
Mike’s journey takes him to New York and back to London to meet up with his old partner, Eddie (Simon Phillips), pulling together his own team of hooligans to formulate a plan that will leave them free from the underworld forever…
Poor old Mike. In an attempt to cheer up the ungrateful plum, not content with being a millionaire running his own bar in Spain (Pablo actually does all the work) with a beautiful woman on his arm, baby on the way, spending his days watching football on his iPad and observing the scantily clad ladies that flock to the beach, the homesick hooligan is treated to a match at Camp Nou, home of Futbol Club Barcelona. Not the best idea in the world, and in fairness his partner Katie (Rita Ramnani) – she bought the tickets - probably deserves to face the consequences of her idiocy, addressed by director Tanter the only way he knows how.
The only way he knows how proves both the film’s blessing and very nearly its downfall. Once again Tanter decides to divulge exposition with a voice-over narration. Thankfully, it’s not as annoying as the one that almost ruined The Fall Of The Essex Boys, as this time round it’s used sparingly, but the story would be better told without it. Show, don’t tell is always going to be more fruitful and wouldn’t eliminate the audience’s curiosity, especially as we can safely assume that Mike isn’t going to be speaking from beyond the grave. Sunset Blvd. (1950) this isn’t.
Set in Spain, New York and England, WCH2 sadly lacks running, fighting and bloodshed. A shame, because Tanter’s two leads are extremely likeable, especially Eddie (Phillips), who gets all the best lines but also has a hard edge that stands him apart from the stereotypes that plague the screen from time to time. Their relationship is one of the film’s big plus points, but when you have drama that works you could also have horror that works too. Instead, the violence is minimal and in hindsight there isn’t that much to return to. A car chase, a few more scraps and some distasteful deaths would add a bit of danger to proceedings but also make the whole film that little bit more entertaining. It doesn’t need a Jason Statham type protagonist, but it would be nice if Mike Jacobs was a little bit more willing to get his hands dirty. He’s supposed to be a hooligan, after all.
The director once again puts faith in a cast he trusts. Peter Barrett was the star of his Essex boys vehicle, and here he stands out as Topbeef, a crooked cop longing for a return to the old days. Ewan Ross also reappears, playing DS Lyons, and although his stay is brief, it’s a welcome one. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Rita Ramnani’s performance. She may be easy on the eye but her acting skills leave a lot to be desired, a living stiff if ever there was one. Still, she’s better than Tom Benedict Knight, whose camp villain Proshinko sits somewhat out of place. Luckily, Vas Blackwood (Mean Machine, Lock Stock) is on hand to restore order as The Pro, in a role that rivals his turn as thief Lennox Gilbey in Only Fools And Horses twenty seven years ago.
A trip to New York to meet Geek (Kelley van Dilla) may seem slightly excessive (surely the money could’ve been spent on set-pieces), but it’s the smaller moments in Tanter’s latest that truly register in a film that satisfies for the most part: Geek playing the tough guy, Mike and Eddie’s witty banter, a slightly camp break-in, an explosive exit, a delicious exchange between Eddie and his wife when she tries to tempt him into bed are its standouts. The last act almost works too, but the potentially crowd-pleasing climax is over before it’s even begun. In truth, it doesn’t sound like WCH2 has too much going for it, and the plot, although well-paced, is as well-worn as David Beckham’s right boot, but there’s plenty of fun to be had here, while a twist right at the end suggests a bloodier return is imminent. Surprisingly, you’ll welcome it.
If you have a hankering for gangsters and hilarity White Collar Hooligan 2: England Away might just be a guilty pleasure. With more violence and a couple of tense set-pieces thrown in this could have been brilliant. Instead you’ll just have to make do with a satisfying jaunt and hope the third and final part hits the target. By no means a mess, but not a Messi either. DW