14th May2018

‘Hooligan Escape: The Russian Job’ Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Ali Bastian, Guy Faulkner, Charlie Wernham, James Tratas, Ben Freeman, Denis Khoroshko, Ryan Winsley, Cheryl Burniston, Kate Parnell, Oleg Hill, Michael Elkin, Kevin Mathurin, Taryn Bishop | Written and Directed by Nicholas Winter

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France 2016 the European Cup. A group of English football hooligans are chased down and cornered by their vicious Russian rivals in a local cafe. A violent fight ensures between the two groups, which ends up with one of the Russians being killed after he is stabbed.

Russia 2018 the World Cup. The group are embroiled in trouble again and find themselves locked up in a Russian cell. Frustrated at first because they are missing the football, but they soon learn that things are about to get worse and they are going to stay here for long. After being recognised be a corrupt prison guard, they are gassed, kidnapped and taken to a secure derelict warehouse, where is seems there is no way of escape. They soon come to realise that their past is about to catch up with them, as a ruthless Russian gangster will stop at nothing to get his revenge. Their only option now is to fight for survival and somehow find a way to escape.

The foundations of Hooligan Escape: The Russian Job incorporate the elements you would expect from the football hooligan sub-genre, with the brutal violence, song chanting and boisterous banter. However, once the story unfolds you soon realise that the film offers something very different to what you might expect. The story helps it to really stand apart, with plenty of twists to keep you engaged.

The film works brilliantly as a gritty drama and although it may be restricted by the budget, the simplicity of the warehouse location works well to keep the action contained, which helps to build up the tension. The dark corridors and isolated rooms create makes the building feel like a concrete maze, where the deeper you go, the more you realise there really is nowhere to go. The building, like the story has several levels, which makes it difficult to foresee where it will take you next, although as new areas are uncovered they still manages to remain innkeeping with the main story.

The film doesn’t completely change the way in which we look at the characters, although it does give them a sense of normality. It is obvious they thrive on the excitement of fighting, but when they realise their lives are in danger, they begin to reflect on their everyday routines. A normal life which seems a far cry from the world of football violence and the dangers they are currently faced with.

Nicholas Winter does a great job with the script, which manages to capture the natural humour of the characters. The ongoing banter between the group allows for some light-hearted comedy, without taking away the tension which he continues to build throughout. Kevin Mathurin is a brilliant example as Tom with his boisterous humour, even when things look there darkest he continues on defiant as he shows off his singing talents.

As a ruthless Russian gangster Oleg Hill does a great job as the crazed Dimitry, who rules through fear and acts without remorse. There is a real violent intensity with his performance, which he manages to deliver without overacting. The most dramatic scenes deriving from his controlled aggression, as he begins to taunt his victims. Obsessed with inflicting as much pain as possible and the honour of a warrior’s death, once he has control there really does look to be only one conclusion.

Ben Freeman does a good job driving the film as the natural leader of the group, with his calm head and military background. He is the one who holds the group together and although the others are good in a scrape, when it comes to taking on armed Russian gangsters, he is the only one who stands a chance of getting them out alive.

Veronika is probably the most complex character in the film and Ali Bastian plays the part perfectly. As an interpreter for the Russians, she is a woman who is prepared to do whatever is required, although she has her own reasons for being there. There is a clever subtlety in her performance which deliberately shows cracks in the pretence of her hard exterior. With her character displaying a slight vulnerability when asked to undertake various tasks. Her actions do not fully disclose her character, but it does demonstrate that she is not the cold killer she would have them believe.

Most of the film depicts the situation well and doesn’t hold back when it comes to the violence which is expected with this type of film; however, the film feels let down in situations when the group are given the group the upper hand. We grow to like the characters and we want them to survive, but at times it does feel as though it is too easy for them to manoeuvre and progress, especially when you consider the scale of the operation. It doesn’t depreciate the quality of the film, although you could be more forgiving to these events if it was a brainless action movie. But where the drama is developed so well, it’s a shame these moments do detract from the brutal realism which the film tries to portray.

Hooligan Escape: The Russian Job offers a lot more than I was originally expecting from the film. It may be innkeeping with the gritty brutal tone and personality of a football hooligan movie, but the original story and direction from Nicholas Winter helps to develop it into something original. It may not be a football film which will be for everyone leading into the world cup, but as a tense drama with plenty of bottle, Hooligan Escape the Russian Job is worth checking out.

Hooligan Escape: The Russian Job is released on May 14th, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

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