Dead Cert (2010)

Freddie ‘Dead Cert‘ Frankham is a retired fighter who has turned his back on a life of outlaw gangsters and unlawful boxing matches in favour of running a newly opened club in London. Out of the blue one day, he is introduced to a shady Romanian businessman who provides him with a proposition he just can’t refuse; a one on one fight with each side represented, if Frankham wins he receives a massive £3’000’000 payout but if he loses, he has to sign over his club, Paradise. Predictably, after a rather unfair fight, he loses dramatically and has to kiss goodbye to his club and all his hardwork thus far. It isn’t long before suspicions are raised and the Romanians are outed as vampires which leads to an all out war between the tough Londoners and their powerful supernatural foes.

Dead Cert is a game of two halves; part traditional gangster flick and part vampire horror. Sadly, despite the amalgamation of genres, it fails to offer anything new in either. That’s not to say it’s a bad film, far from it, it’s perfectly watchable and fairly entertaining but does tend to go through the motions rather than breaking any new ground.

The gangster element of the movie is far more interesting than the vampire aspect, which unfortunately succumbs to cliche. The vampires are largely PVC clad monsters who suffer from poor characterisation and are merely as expected, nothing more.

The real downfall of the film is the presence of Billy Murray. That’s not to say he isn’t a talented actor and he certainly has the required amount of gravitas to play the part but regrettably, his role is merely badly timed and had it not coincided with the relentless appearance of his ‘Injury Lawyers 4 U’ advertisments on every UK TV channel, would have been quite effective. However, that’s not the case and at times it’s difficult to wipe this incarnation of him from your mind which affected my ability to buy him as a decades old vampire.

The saving grace though, at the other end of the spectrum, is Craig Fairbrass. He’s a powerhouse of a man and has a genuine rapport and chemistry with his on screen partner Lisa McAllister, who is also excellent. No matter when or where he appears on screen, his is a presence that demands attention and he always sinks his teeth into the material offered (no pun intended!)

Given the popularity of the vampire movie and the plethora of films that have come before it in the horror canon, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons to superior films. This is to do Dead Cert a disservice though, it’s an ambitious film that works on some levels and fails on others but is certainly very watchable. Those expecting a rollercoaster ride might be disappointed but those with a love of slow burn, traditional British horrors might be pleasantly surprised. It’s flawed but entertaining and the cast of hugely recognisable English faces are, mostly, a joy to watch.

Dead Cert sometimes feels like two different films. Sometimes it flows flawlessly and looks stylish and occasionally the direction and story progression are a little confusing and disjointed. The clever use of lighting ensures it always looks great though and the production values belie the meagre budget. It would have benefitted from a little more balls-to-the-wall action, a more coherant finale and a tad more originality. On the plus side, the special effects are good, the sub genres mesh together well and it’s clear in every frame that the cast had a whale of a time during filming. Dead Cert is enjoyable but disposable.

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

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