The feature debut from filmmaker Philip Barantini, Villain, follows hardened criminal Eddie Franks (Craig Fairbrass) who tries to live a normal life after being released from prison. However, when he discovers that his brother Sean (George Russo) has landed himself in hot water with rival gangsters (Robert Glenister and Tomi May), Eddie can’t help but get sucked back into the life he was trying to escape in order to help his family.
A clichéd but somewhat entertaining crime thriller, Villain follows every beat you’d expect from the genre. While there’s enough here to satisfy genre fans, it offers little else to distinguish itself from similar films.
A large reason for the flick’s lacklustre presence can be boiled down to the absence of depth attributed to the characters. In spite of Fairbrass’s commendable attempt to deliver a performance with substance, the script simply doesn’t allow for his character to evolve in any meaningful way. This is especially true of Glenister and May’s ruthless mobsters; their onscreen presence is intimidating, but the aged cockney hardmen they play are so one-note that it’s difficult to see them as anything but potty-mouthed soap opera villains. In fact, the characters’ one-dimensional presentation is representative of everything wrong about toxic masculinity within contemporary media.
The flawed screenplay is also evident within the film’s pacing. Beginning with an intriguing, if silly, opening, it takes over an hour to get to the meat of the film after expositional scenes that have little to do with anything that follows. When the twists and turns kick into action, the narrative sets off on a sprint to the ending, giving mere seconds to what should have been full sequences. Consequently, the finale is nowhere near as effective as intended, regardless of Izuka Hoyle’s noteworthy performance.
On the positive side, David Ridley and Aaron May’s score is a pleasant surprise. Rooting the familiar genre within a new soundscape, they’re able to give small moments huge significance, whilst giving the film its own unique voice.
It may be horribly predictable and plagued with an uneven screenplay, but – despite these glaring flaws – Villain isn’t the bad guy you’d imagine. While it’s unable to distinguish itself as anything particularly memorable, there is enough here to entertain genre fans.
Villain is released in select cinemas on 28th February 2020.
Watch the trailer for Villain here: