Bulla (Ricky Grover) is a big fat gypsy gangster. He has just got out of prison after serving 16 years of a 10 year stretch (he got into some bother on the inside) and now he is seeking to re-establish his criminal empire. In tow is the crew of a US documentary film maker, keen to see how Bulla gets on.
The mock-documentary format is well-worn and has birthed many a mutated offspring. Straightforward examples like Spinal Tap, Best In Show and Drop Dead Gorgeous have led in recent years to more complex offerings like District 9, Catfish and I’m Still Here. In some ways, BFGG bears closest resemblance to District 9, dropping as it does the mock-doc format on occasion, before abandoning it wholesale towards the end. That is where the comparisons do and must end though.
The central premise is strong enough and a big fat gypsy gangster seems a clever and ripe target for the format and a satirical approach in general. Unfortunately, the format is employed inconsistently (abandoning the documentary approach, or switching between shots with only one cameraman theoretically available) and the script just does not mine the core idea for all that it is worth. Almost all of what is on show here is haphazard to say the least, with Bulla proving to be a deranged and deluded character, but more crucially never a compelling or amusing one. There are a few good ideas knocking around, such as Rufus Hound playing a sort of trainee psychic under Derek Acorah’s tutelage and laughs are to be had from Peter Capaldi’s probation officer/therapist and a couple of witty faux-newspaper headlines (“Bulla eats own bicep”) but it’s too hit and miss and sadly mostly miss.
Recent history has shown us that for every successful Borat there’s a stumbling Bruno and no matter how strong your central idea is, your script and overall execution must measure up. In addition to the cameos/familiar names already mentioned, Omid Djalili and Steven Berkoff crop up as well, though to indifferent effect. Grover (who writes, directs and stars) is sensible enough to keep the whole thing under 90 minutes, but he has allowed his reach to exceed his grasp in terms of the feature-length potential of the character and his screenplay.
By the end, with Bulla trying to win a load of money through underground bare-knuckle midget fighting in order to save his aunt’s pub and then a finale that ties up some loose ends with the alarming depraved copper who locked Bulla up in the first place, it all feels like it has out-stayed its welcome and I for one felt that I’d had more than enough. Too many of the supposed laughs fall flat and in an increasingly congested mock-doc marketplace, this just does not measure up in terms of quality or inventiveness.