Top Dog sets out the life of Billy Evans (Leo Gregory) early, showing hwo he sorts out a chav’s vociferous dispute in a Chinese takeway by delivering some non-fatal justice that ensures he will never trouble that establishment again. In fact, he’s cool as a cucmber which has been left in the freezer.
It’s Martin Kemp‘s second outing as director following 2010’s Stalker, released in the UK in October 2011 but never having been given any promotion (and I only heard of it for the first time now after looking it up). And as a child of the ’80s, I grew up to the music of Spandau Ballet alongside all the other great pop bands of the time.
The film is set in the East End of London, and early on there’s a local pub being extorted for £250 per week from some heavies, led by Mickey (Ricci Harnett) who, when Billy points out his disatisfaction at their activities, responds with “This is all a bit ‘Lock, Stock’ innit?”
Billy expresses that if he doesn’t leave the pub alone, he’ll turn over two of Mickey’s pubs or clubs. That said, since Mickey is thicky and doesn’t listen, it all starts to kick off and when Mickey’s establishments are vandalised, although there’s not actually that much damage done onscreen. A few tables and chairs are kicked over, but budgetary constraints clearly mean that the bar is untouched, as is the lighting, upholstery and so on.
However, the more that Billy tries to become ‘Top Dog’ over all the rest of the criminal fraternity, the more his life has a chance to completely spiral out of control.
Top Dog is a reasonable way of passing just over 90 minutes. It’s not essential, and it’s not rubbish. It’s just okay. And the storyline’s outcome is very predictable. There’s also the problem of lots of characters clearly distrought and crying, yet none of them have tears down their faces.
The two leads snarl along in amusing fashion to the point where you think they’re going to crack up, but the best actor here is Vincent Regan (most recently seen in the overhyped and stupidly-named Philip Glenister drama From There To Here), who is always nicely chilling when he’s onscreen in most things, and he delivers that here, but he doesn’t get a chance to do so until the third act.
Still, look on the bright side. The role of Mickey was going to be played originally by Danny Dyer, but the sinking ship that is Eastenders sailed away with him.
Oh, and it’s also nice to see a film not afraid to step up the violence so that it gets an 18-certificate. However, there’s not a great deal that would tip it over a 15-cert, but the use of drugs in the film also tips it over into an 18.
And, in addition, the role of Topless Waitress goes to Page 3 model and Celebrity Big Brother star Rhian Sugden, whose heaving bosom is on display in Mickey’s club.
Go to page 2 for a look at the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.