Aeh, here’s a film where you know what you’re getting from the cover: Ray Winston, looking grumpy and holding a pistol with the title Lords of London etched out above him and the motto ‘in this city crime is a family business’ prominently displayed. So, OK, expect gangsters, violence, lots of colourful cockney language, murky cinematography and the essential strip club scenes. Well, no, not really. For one thing Ray Winston is hardly in it at all, appearing only in flashback sequences as the protagonist’s horrible father (he’s good, inevitably). For another it is largely set not in London but Italy. But above all at it’s heart it’s not really a gangster movie, more a fantasy which takes its cues from the TV series Life on Mars.
Tony Lord (Glen Murphy) is a middle aged bruiser who is shot while partying in a nightclub and wakes up… in a village in Italy in the 1950s. Understandably confused by this turn of events he strikes up a friendship with the local bar owner Francesco (Giovanni Capalbo), all the time suffering flashbacks about his childhood and the events leading up to the shooting. Francesco is convinced that Tony has arrived there for some important, unknown reason; but he also has problems of his own because his grand-daughter (Serena Iansiti) has been swept off her feet by a dodgy English teddy boy called Terry (Christopher Hatherall). So what is Tony’s connection to this bucolic past?
This is two films chopped together and arbitrarily made into one: partially it’s a formulaic gangster movie; partially a whimsical fable about redemption. It’s far more effective in the latter sections, with the locations in Abruzzo well used and an authentic smalltown Italian ambience effectively developed. The script too is more focused, with the writing picking up and taking time to develop the characters, while for once the Italian actors out-perform their English equivalents. Director Antonio Simoncini – about whom I know nothing – does a decent job and there’s good cinematography from James Friend (The Liability, Ghosted). A lot of sources also credit Craig Viveiros (of the superior The Liability) as director, so there’s probably a story to tell there. Whatever the case, it’s a far more interesting film than the marketing would imply; it’s just a shame that there was the need to shoehorn a whole load of tatty gangster tropes into the story, presumably in order to help sell it to the DVD market.