Not only does St George's Day have a premise that will make any London gangster movie fan sit up, the cast is crammed full of great actors to really make a tantalising prospect. Could this be a new film to rival Lock, Stock… and The Football Factory? Sadly, the directorial debut of fan favourite Harper falls well short of some of the classics he's starred in.
Harper plays "Mad" Micky Mannock, one half of an infamous London gangster partnership. His brother in crime and cousin Ray (Fairbrass) is looking to retire and go legit, but the two lose big in their final scheme together. Not only does the deal go tits up, but the Russian mafia now has a vendetta against our anti-heroes. Now Micky and Ray have to find a way to repay the mafia and secure their safety. Using an England vs Germany football game as a distraction, they pull a diamond heist in Berlin that might just be out of their depth.
Harper also co-wrote and starred in the film, which is a big ask of any director. Even so, he called in some favours and managed to assemble the Expendables of East End talent with a familiar face cropping up every 10 minutes. This proves to be one of St George's Days' flaws in that there are simply far too many characters. It takes exceptional skill as a director to throw more than 10 characters at your audience and expect them to relate to or care about all of them. So as people start to get picked off there's little sympathy shared. The film is bloated with ideas and plot threads that get dropped through convenience, when a streamlined approach and clearer focus would have sufficed. The film dips into the gangster genre, mixes in a crime caper vibe and adds a blend of football hooliganism as a flourish, but the final product is a mess. Key elements to the heist are little more than afterthoughts, with our characters planning and bickering far too much whilst the action and set pieces are too limited.
The film contains a very repetitive script that highlights points over and over again; combined with a dull, monotone narration, it's hard to get into the story. The odd joke and moments of witty banter are present giving the film a more light-hearted and entertaining approach, as seen is some of Guy Ritchie's earlier work. It complements the tone, adding a bit of fun rather than the intense approach that is present for most of the film.
As for performances the cast is brimming with talented actors but sadly they either have very little to do or poor dialogue to work with. Supporting actors such as Maskell, Pertwee, Fletcher and Dance add a touch of class, but can't perform miracles with the dreary lines they're given. Among the major players, Fairbass provides a convincing portrayal as the cousin to Mad Mickey, a man who wants to escape the gangster life. He becomes a protagonist to latch onto rather than Harper, who is disappointing – he delivers a one-note performance, showing little emotion at any time. It's simply baffling as to why he's nicknamed "mad" since he seems to be the calmest person in the gang.
St George's Day is not the sum of it's parts. An intriguing premise, an outstanding cast and some exciting European locations aren't enough to solve the problems found at script level. Harper does show some good moments as director, but the story gets out of control to leave an unsatisfactory experience.