It’s not everyday a man wakes up having to live his life looking over his shoulder. For ex-convict Eddie Franks (Craig Fairbass), it’s been a daily practice since childhood. Such is the grim setup as actor-cum-filmmaker Phillip Barantini’s new film, Villain, comes host to a dark, gritty gangster tale with fair loads of violence and gore, underscored by more than its urban crime bearings.
To know a film like Villain is to understand the human psyche and what fuel’s a person’s addictive nature. Some are keen on food, sex, drugs and alcohol, etc. Others are in it for the thrill of a thing. The excitement. The danger. Sometimes, one or more of these become a package deal of sorts, and this was especially the case for Eddie having just done a ten year stretch and reunited with brother Sean (George Russo).
Eddie’s a lot wiser with age though, and he’s more eager to try and solve problems with a cool hand before taking specific measures to get things done. His penchants here will certainly be put to the test, however, struggling to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Chloe (Izuka Hoyle) – herself a new mom, while mitigating Sean’s own financial shambles and junkie lifestyle with girlfried/exotic dancer, Rikki (Eloise Lovell Anderson).
Things go from bad to worse when Eddie is acquainted with gangster sibling duo Roy Garrett (Robert Glenister) and brother Jonny (Tomi May), as well as the debt – upwards of five figures – Sean owes them. Despite Eddie’s good faith efforts to appeal to the Garretts’ for leniency with conditional promise of payment, it becomes evident the ways of the old life aren’t far behind him, and the time will come when a cool, compromising hand will certainly be out of the question.
Thus, what unravels with Villain is the very package deal one gets when anti-heroes is forced back into their old ways. The well-meaning of good intentions go out the window when choices are made, especially violent ones…ones that incriminate us. Fool us into believing in our own savviness and acuity, and the reassurance that “blood” and “honor” share the same thickness among broken people, including loved ones.
Penned by Russo and co-scribe Greg Hall, Barantini crafts a poetic career prelude in Villain, featuring Fairbass who exudes gravitas with his burly frame, delivering emotive drama as a lifetime criminal who can’t help himself. He loves his family, and especially wants nothing more than to be seen and welcome by Chloe as she grows into motherhood, and at the same time, but knows the tragedy that followed his departure has drawn some serious consequences.
His eagerness to make the wrong things right, and the faulty affect it bares, is drawn brilliantly between two seperate scenes with Sean and Chloe, and it’s a comparison that further underscores not only the striking difference between him and Sean; By the third act, it also unveils the worst of what Eddie would only ever expect of other people he knew he couldn’t trust.
Making his feature debut, Barantini’s Villain further touches on how actions affect people from certain degrees of seperation. It’s a significant addenum to the narrative, though less prevalent compared to its illustrative outlining as a character study of what it means to be evil and do evil deeds. The most naked example of this is within the second half when Eddie and Sean find themselves in the film’s most thickened, grim end of the plot – one fitting of a genre flick, and well suited for an actor like Fairbass who is no stranger to characters keen on spilling blood.
A freshman outing strong enough to convey a demonstrable work of British gangster cinema, Villain dives in with a multi-angular approach to its figurative and elegiac touch that elevates it from being an average potboiler crime flick. Sanctioned by solid performances with a cast that also includes Mark Monero and Taz Skylar, fans of British gangland cinema will take a fair liking to Villain, with Barantini next in line as hero to the director’s seat.
Villain arrives in select theaters, VOD and Digital on May 22 from Saban Films.