Written & Directed by Nicholas Winter, Undercover Hooligan (previously known as Undercover) is a gritty, beautifully filmed British crime drama, starring a whole host of names that I know from many other films I have watched over the past few months and years and is the first UK film I have watched in 2017, having purchased the DVD on the 27th of December after its Boxing Day release here in the UK. For those expecting a film featuring football hooligans you will be disappointed to learn that football only gets a mention, there are no terrace battles, no pitch invasions and no scenes of crowds of thugs screaming ‘Oi Oi, Come on you c*nt’ at each other. That made me happy. I think that the football hooligan film needs a breather and even though I quite like watching them, I much prefer the type of film that Undercover Hooligan is.
For those of you hoping for a gritty film that tells a compelling story and characters that are portrayed by wonderfully talented actors and has a beautiful look to it, then Undercover Hooligan has got you sorted out. I had avoided hearing too much story elements about the film as I followed its production throughout 2016, as I always prefer to watch a film as a viewer, not as anyone who write reviews or comments on a film. Ive always been a film fan and I always want to be a film fan. Not a critic.
Michael Clarke (Kris Johnson) a suspended police officer is given the choice to take on the most dangerous mission in his life, and accepts. He is sent undercover to infiltrate the notorious London criminal enterprise(drugs, illegal fighting, people trafficking) of Terance Turner (Patrick Connolly), with the task of bringing the gang boss to justice and shutting the business down. It all sounds quite simple doesnt it and whilst Undercover Hooligan doesnt bring a never seen before storyline to our eyes and ears, it doesn’t try to and doesn’t need to What the film and the cast and crew does do, and it does many things besides, is give us a story we might have seen before but avoids cliche and keeps us massively entertained with the performances, the film production, its haunting musical score and everything else about the 90 minute film. It even throws in a smile educing moment from Only Fools and Horses.
Filmmaker Nicholas Winter has followed up his wonderful directing on Hooligan Legacy (also featuring Kris Johnson) with more wonderful work in Undercover Hooligan and has definitely earned himself a place on my list of ‘directors to keep an eye on’ Beginning with the line ‘Michael Clarke, This is an initiation’ made me smile as watching films nowadays is a bit like an initiation, you’ll either be happy and find a gem of a film or find yourself let out a sigh if the film disappoints. Undercover Hooligan is the former, and whilst the cast are all great, for me there were 3 onscreen standouts in the cast list. First and foremost is Kris Johnson in the title role, who as Michael Clarke is likable not only because you can see that life makes him (his character) miserable but yet he still tries to make things better for everyone in his quest to close down the villains. Kris appears in more scenes than anyone else and is perfect in every one of them, He gives a standout performance. Definitely a name to keep an eye on. Kris can be seen in the up and coming film The Middle Man but if you want to see some impressive work, then check out Kris in Hooligan Legacy, and also this film Undercover Hooligan. A very exciting dramatically talented actor to say the very least
There is a very early scene in the film that involves a woman in a shipping container, and whilst I wont go into the story points of that scene, I will say that it was that scene in particular that ‘hooked’ me into the film. Its nothing graphic, its nothing set piece orientated. Its just actress Ali Bastian (The Bill, Hollyoaks) talking to someone. But its mesmerizing but because of .the look on Ali’s eyes. Her character throughout the film (she pops up now and again) is another of the standout performances in Undercover Hooligan and when Annette (my partner) walked in the room, she said ‘I know her from’ and made me list Ali Bastians filmography.
Last but certainly not least (as id mentioned, the entire cast have done a knockout job on the film) is Mr Simon Cotton who I have not only had the pleasure of talking to on my podcasts (he was Ronnie Kray in The Rise Of The Krays and The Fall Of The Krays) but it also on super villain mode in Undercover Hooligan. Whenever Gavin Turner (played by Simon) is onscreen you pretty much know that someones going to be screamed at or worse. Whilst I love to see actors branch out, I am more than happy to see Simon play villains in any film and as he did in the role of Ronnie Kray and as he does in Undercover Hooligan, he gives an understanding to the dark side of humanity rather than just a plain bad guy.
On a final note, in the previous film by Nicholas Winter, (Hooligan Legacy) there is a scene involving a fuel canister, and a video camera.that has haunted me since I first watched the film many, many months ago. It was perfectly shot and sat in my mind for a long time. In Undercover Hooligan there is a scene involving a river and a blue plastic container. Thanks guys and girls. That scene is now haunting me too. What would have been a simple plot element, has been so well done that it is still on my mind hours after I have watched the film. Great work!
Also a standout performance is Greg Harwood, who’s character you wont know but his music you will. Greg has created a beautiful score to the film that helps create the dark atmosphere of the world we encounter whilst sitting down in our safe living rooms and watching Michael Clarke struggling to deal with his assignment. I’ve always been a fan of musical scores and Greg is a name I’m going to keep a watch out for. Thanks Greg!!
So if you find yourself with time to kill this holiday season and want a really decent film to watch with great performances, then do check out Undercover Hooligan. I’m glad I watched it, I will watch it again at some point and will happily recommend it to those who like British Indie films. II don’t generally give marks out of 5 or 10 or star ratings as Its always unfair to compare one film to another, but what I will say is that I paid £7.99 for the film on Amazon and I don’t regret a single penny of it. Id like to thank all the cast and crew of the film for their work to give me (and lots of others I’m sure) a wonderfully dark and entertaining film to watch this morning and anytime that some of them fancy recording a commentary for the film. Let me know. Along with this one and Hooligan Legacy, I’m sure the cast have such fun stories to tell!
Produced by Jeet Thakar & Lucinda Rhodes-Thakar
Undercover Hooligan is out now on Digital and DVD formats.