Michael Caine is Billy Simpson. They are made for each other, a perfect match.

The small time gangster movie became trendy again after Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. You couldn't get enough of Souff London villains. Their humour, style and casual cruelty emulated the Krays, as if the world according to Vinnie Jones was real and, in many ways, admirable.

Billy Simpson is a boxing promoter, not a crook, although there appears to be little difference. The police are looking for him after a bare knuckle fighter dies in hospital. But this is not brilliant timing, as Billy's lad, known as Golden Boy, is fighting an American contender in Bethnal Green that night and nothing is going to mess it up.

The story is told as much through Billy's minders as anyone. Stoney (Frank Harper) drives the car. He's a big man, who doesn't like people getting too close to the guvnor. An ex-street fighter, he speaks with a soft voice. Mel (Andy Serkis) is the new boy, a bit of a joker - Stoney does not appreciate jokes - and more excitable. They act as chorus to Billy's King Lear.

This is well-trod territory, expertly handled by writer, Scott Cherry, and director John Irvin. Billy is not so much a tragic figure, as a relic from another age. Caine plays him for real, with pride. Beneath the veneer of sophistication, Billy's a bully. He won't contemplate defeat and when things go wrong, responds the only way he knows how, violently.

Martin Landau, as Peck's manager, is too big an actor for such an inconsequential role. Even with a young blonde on his arm, he looks over-qualified and out of place. Harper and Serkis are terrific, while Caine carries the film with the authority of a man who has been here before.

Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2001
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London boxing promoter attempts to find out why an important fight goes against him.
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Amber Wilkinson ***1/2

Director: John Irvin

Writer: Scott Cherry

Starring: Michael Caine, Martin Landau, Frances Barber, Frank Harper, Andy Serkis, Matthew Marsden, Clare Rushbrook

Year: 2001

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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