Writer and Director: Savvas D. Michael
Lock Stock meets The Hammer House of Horror in Savvas D. Michael’s final part of a trilogy that began with Original Gangster and continued with Red Rage. This tongue-in-cheek drama about a streetwise couple tasked with toppling the Devil and his New World Order certainly has style, but it may not be to everyone’s taste.
Jeremiah is a petty criminal, stealing old women’s jewellery as he tells them that they’ve won £10,000 on the Postcode Lottery. Jolie is an ex-prostitute, distraught that her drug-dealing boyfriend has been killed. Jeremiah and Jolie first meet when they are summoned to a car scrap yard by a prophet protected by gun-wielding Jesus lookalikes. He tells them they have been chosen to rescue a child from the New World Order, settled in an unknown island off England’s coast.
Much of Righteous Villains is good fun, especially the early scenes that introduce us to our intrepid couple. As Jeremiah, Jamie Crew is an excellent small town wide-boy, smart in his suit, but perhaps not smart in any other way. He doesn’t want to be a hero – or in the realms of this film, a saint – but he wants to be rich. Crew ensures that Jeremiah is likeable, a cheeky-chappie sort.
Lois Brabin-Platt is Jolie, fierce and outspoken, but who is still surprised to find a slither of goodness inside her soul. Brabin-Platt allows the audience to see this chink of virtue without otherwise changing her fiery demeanour. However, Jeremiah and Jolie are not complex characters: for director Michael, their journey is more important.
So it’s a shame that when they do reach their destination, the film’s sharp wit wanes and Righteous Villains becomes a pastiche of devil-worshipping films like those produced by Hammer Productions in the 1960s and 70s, and then again in 1980 in ITV’s Hammer House of Horror. There are shots of naked people dancing around fires, and women having orgies on beds; this version of Hell is very familiar.
More interesting than the story perhaps, are the long camera shots sometimes lasting minutes as in the scene where our two reluctant martyrs argue on the beach or when they’re taken on a tour of the Devil’s house. The camera wheels around them in such a way that the film crew is invisible, underlining the remoteness of the island and the secrecy of the New World Order.
Another unusual shot finds Steven Berkoff as Jeremiah’s grandfather, but the camera is so far away that it looks more like Anthony Hopkins than Berkoff. This distancing, though frustrating, is a deliberate strategy by Michael and which contributes to his unusual and retro aesthetic. Fortunately, the camera is more sympathetic when it comes to finding Gary Dourdan who as Jolie’s husband says very little but is mesmerising nonetheless.
Releasing three films in as many weeks is no mean feat, and maybe it will make sense to watch them back-to-back to fully experience Michael’s particular approach. But while Righteous Villains may have style, it’s still a little silly.
Released on DVD and Digital Download on 19 April 2021