21st Sep2021

‘The Ballad of Billy McCrae’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Ian Virgo, Sianad Gregory, David Hayman, Ross O’Hennessy, Sophie Carmen-Jones, Gerald Tyler, Christopher Patrick Nolan, Carli De’La Hughes, Tim Duthrane | Written by Philip Palmer | Directed by Chris Crow

British gangster or small-town British revenge-style movies are a dime a dozen. There’s so many of them around, I assume because they are cheap to make and there’s an abundance of actors who will happily star of them. Because of this, it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. Directors like Shane Meadows have taken this idea but elevated to a whole new level, and that’s hard to do. The Ballad of Billy McCrae and its director doesn’t quite do that but there’s still plenty of interest here.

We are introduced to Chris Blythe. A man who has returned to his home town in Wales with his tale between his legs after losing his fortune in Canada. He soon falls for a woman, Elen, the daughter of his new and not at all nice boss. Both Elen and her father have plenty of issues.

This a very British movie. The accents, the fashion, the locations and the attitudes. If you are from or live in the U.K. it will all feel very familiar. Perhaps the best example of this is that with almost every character, you will know someone who is very similar. These are all people that you will know or come across in your town.

Like many British actors, lead guy Ian Virgo has appeared in Eastenders, Casualty, The Bill and many more British TV shows but he’s also had parts in bigger productions. The likes of Black Hawk Down and The Raven, so it’s no surprises he does well in the role. Completely believable and just likeable enough. He’s supposed to have flaws, and does, and he’s not always a nice person but you believe he is doing things mostly for the right reason. Or at the very least, so he isn’t seen as a pushover in a world full of people who will take advantage.

Alongside him is Sianad Gregory. Less experienced but almost as impressive. The crazy, volatile female has been done to death, it’s easy to become a kind of parody of the character but she changes things up just about enough to keep her character interesting and grounded.

The Ballad of Billy McCrae does a great job of building it’s villain (Billy McCrae) up to the point that you want to see him hurt or even worse. He’s a horrible horrible guy, played brilliantly by veteran actor David Hayman, and maybe they do this too well because the conclusion of his story isn’t as satisfying as it should be. It is violent though and there are a couple of scenes of pretty brutal violence that are shot well and have plenty of impact.

There’s no real twist, it is a little predictable at times, even with a surprising final few minutes and I could have done with the attempt at sympathy for the key villain. Maybe parts of the story could have been kept a little simpler.

The Ballad of Billy McCrae isn’t hugely original. If you’ve seen several British gangster movies or similar types, then you wont see much new. But it is a good example of this sub genre. The characters are interesting with plenty of layers to them and director Chris Crow makes sure everything looks great and ultimately The Ballad of Billy McCrae is very British and very violent, with plenty to keep you entertained.

The Ballad of Billy McCrae is released in UK cinemas on September 24th.


Comments are closed.