Who Needs EnemiesThe gangster film is a staple part of the British cinema diet. Who can resist watching a few dodgy geezers shooting each other, whilst trading witty insults and still finding time for some banter and birds in between? Whilst the format of the genre has remained largely the same over the years, it was refreshed in the modern day through Guy Ritchie, who made a few solid films that have a fond place in the heart of many a cinema goer. The downside of this, however, is that it inspired an array of copycat films, from filmmakers who simply thought that jumping on the band wagon by adopting a certain style meant instant success. Enter Who Needs Enemies, perhaps the biggest culprit of them all.

This atrociously written, lazy film may as well be a collection of outtakes from every gangster film ever made, with scenes thought too poor to include as hilarious extras on the DVD. The film itself is a classic morality tale, as most gangster films are. However, where this film differs is that is attempts to take on a daringly controversial topic, without attempting to make any meaningful engagement with it, to the point where it’s almost insulting.

The director Peter Stylianou seems more concerned with trying out every trick in the Guy Ritchie Guide to Gangsters than actually writing a story – a particular favourite of his seemingly being the sped up action shot immediately followed by a slow-motion shot of someone falling, or snorting, or laughing… You get the idea. In fact, most of the film will feel pretty familiar, because there is not a single original idea throughout. There are nods to nearly every British gangster film in the last 20 years, though not in a Tarantino ‘homage’ sort of way, but in an ‘are they not infringing copyright?’ kind of way.

Unfortunately the film cannot be saved by the performances. There is absolutely nothing in terms of character. Ian Pirie, playing an (apparently) ‘good’ guy certainly gives it his best shot, and is easily a standout. However it’s very hard for him, or indeed any of the rest of the cast, to create anything with the dull, archetypal characters they’ve been handed. There’s not a single person in the film to root for, or even to hate, because there is a complete lack of any sort of substance or personality.

As a general rule, it’s not difficult to create something mildly entertaining with the gangster genre – all the ingredients are there; criminals, humour, violence. It’s a real shame that at a time when a good gangster film has the potential to do really well (the Tories are in power), that the first attempt in a while doesn’t have a single redeeming feature to pull in an audience.