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Key DVD presents
Charlie (2004)

"Now, all I've done is sent a few old dears on holiday with the proceeds of a bit of hooky gear."
- Charlie Richardson (Luke Goss)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: July 20, 2005

Stars: Luke Goss
Other Stars: Steven Berkoff, Anita Dobson, Leslie Grantham
Director: Malcolm Needs

MPAA Rating: R for (strong brutal violence, pervasive language, brief drug use)
Run Time: 01h:34m:24s
Release Date: July 19, 2005
UPC: 024543192930
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C-AB+ D-

DVD Review

In 1960s Britain, there were two dominant crime families, the Krays and the Richardsons. The former was chronicled in the excellent, nearly forgotten 1990 film, aptly titled The Krays. Now, 15 years later, we finally get a movie about their arch rivals, with this one focusing on that group's leader, Charlie Richardson. Bypassing theaters in the US, this film received a paltry silver screen showing even in its native Great Britain, which wasn't a good sign of the potential quality of the film at all.

Charlie is a great-looking, splashy film, but is very ineffective, due to its ridiculously languid pacing. The story centers on Charlie Richardson and his cohorts on trial for their crimes, with the actual crimes themselves, as well as the ring-leader's back-story, told in flashback. While this tactic is normally effective, it only muddles things, making each subplot all the more confusing. I'm all for complex storylines and am more than willing to have to think through films, but this should have been one of those where the audience could just sit back and have a Snatch-like, exhilarating experience.

Charlie Richardson (Luke Goss) is your typical gangster, caring only about himself and his cash flow, yet always dependent on those closest to him for his survival. Still, like any of his type he was pretty much in this lifestyle since birth and has matured into a man with the highest of ambitions. Charlie's ambitions led him to the head of one of the two dominant crime "families" of the 60s, the Richardsons. Between feuding with the Krays, Charlie was busy growing his fortune regardless of the cost. Now on trial for his crimes, Charlie must rely on the loyalties and competence of those closest to him to keep the whole lot of them out of prison.

While ex-Spandau Ballet members, and brothers, Gary and Martin Kemp did a superb job portraying the Krays in that film, Luke Goss' work as Charlie Richardson is one of the key factors in its mediocrity. His one-note performance robs this dynamic historical figure of the grace and sophistication that made him who he was. For such an evil figure, Goss doesn't come across as mean or terrifying in any way. Sure, there are a few instances where his temper gets the best of him, but a more accomplished actor could have really taken this character to the next level. For a prime example of how to pull off a similar role, see Paul Bettany in the underrated, little-seen 2000 film, Gangster No. 1.

Director Malcolm Needs (the obscure 2003 film, Shoreditch), makes it easy to determine that he's still got quite a few kinks to work out as far as his directorial style goes. There are many times where Needs has his camera technique really working well, building up anticipation that the film is really ready to take off. Then, he'll completely change gears and bring the proceedings to a grinding halt. That simply can't happen in an action-oriented, biopic that wants to be the next Layer Cake. He should have went all-out, providing a hyper-kinetic, breezy look at Charlie Richardson, relying more on visuals and sharp dialogue than playing a game of "How Many Subplots Can I Fit in My 90-Minute Film?"

This isn't an all-out horrible film, as there are times where the look of the film is enough to mesmerize by itself, but the recent crop of these British import gangster/action films, it is definitely on the bottom of that totem pole. Steven Berkoff, who was ironically enough in The Krays, as well as a personal favorite of mine, Under the Cherry Moon, is another reason to give Charlie a rental. His work as Charlie Richardson Senior is excellent, making it easy to see why his son decided that a life of crime was the way to go in life.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is excellent, and exactly what one would expect from such a new film. Everything looks great, with crystal clear images, bright, vivid colors, and outstanding utilization of shadows and true contrast levels. There isn't any unintended grain or dirt, and not a single problem with the color scheme.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is involving thanks to appropriate and active surround usage. That, accompanied by some tight, aggressive bass, makes many of the scenes burst to life. The dialogue is rapidly delivered, and usually easy to understand, despite the heavy English accents.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra feature is the trailer for Charlie.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Revisit the '60s British crime scene in Malcolm Needs' film, Charlie. This stylized gangster film unfortunately can't live up to the standards set by recent, similarly-themed British films, but does have a couple of positive qualities that make it worth checking out for some. The audio and video presentations are quite good, but there aren't any extras aside from the film's trailer.


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