Bermondsey Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire

Bermondsey Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire poster

They like to think of themselves as Romulus and Remus, the brothers who founded the Roman Empire, Henry and Jimmy raised together by Mick ever since Henry’s own father George was executed thirty years ago, just one in a long line of betrayals and killings in an extended family who are more akin to the Borgias with their webs of poisonous alliances, intrigues and resentments.

Ranging from con men to armed robbers to drug dealers, there is a chain of command which demands respect and there are egos, but despite the ostensible hierarchy there will be power struggles as advantage is sought, those on the lower rungs seeking promotion within “the firm” and opposition, internal or external, eliminated with extreme prejudice should the occasion warrant it, another day in the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Bermondsey Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire; Skats (Alan Ford) realises Rosemary (Vicki Michelle) is no longer laughing at his jokes.

Written and directed by Michael Head who also stars as Henry, first seen tied up in the boot of a car before he is threatened with torture as a reminder of the significant cash debt he owes before the story segues into the first of many preludes, flashbacks, anecdotes and alternative perspectives, Bermondsey Tales might have been better had he restricted himself solely to duties in front or behind the camera rather than both, for while there is a great deal going on there is little focus or flow.

The ensemble populated by arrogant men and the women who fawn over them or silently bite their tongues, resigned to their comfortable but chilly lots, none are so eccentric or paranoid as “the Postman” played by John Hannah, yet all have their quirks, brought up in an environment where there is no warmth or trust, only rivalry, their need to establish dominance manifesting in endless straight-to-camera monologues of their successes.

Bermondsey Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire; the Postman (John Hannah) arranges a meeting with Rabbit and Tom (Daniel O'Reilly and Rohit Nathaniel).

“We all love a good story” is the statement upon which the Bermondsey Tales are built, but with no depth or reflection is this a good story? The characters superficial, none so much as Daniel “Dapper Laughs” O’Reilly’s insufferable Rabbit, they never question the morality of their behaviour or actions, convinced that being an ‘ard geezer on London turf is a noble position to which all should aspire, vulgar, self-serving people with no kindness, empathy or loyalty, making it difficult to care about their double-dealings or ultimate fate.

The cast including Alan Ford, Adam Deacon, Frank Harper and Vas Blackwood, a roster of faces familiar from Snatch to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, they have all played these parts before, while the mothers, wives and daughters, Vicki Michelle, Linda Robson, Charlotte Kirk and Maisie Smith, are superfluous until they are exercise the only power they have, incrimination by false testimony, the Bermondsey Tales occasionally entertaining but far too scattershot to establish itself as a serious rival to those it hopes to emulate.

Bermondsey Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire will be in select UK Cinemas from Friday 17th May and then on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download from Monday 10th June

Bermondsey Tales: Fall of the Roman Empire; Vimmie (Kwok One) takes exception to the comments made by Rabbit (Daniel O'Reilly).



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