Friday, 19 July 2013

GBH / Grevious Bodily Harm

Club own Murray is in trouble. Gangster Keller wants a cut of his profits in return for protection, said protection being from Keller’s thugs. Murray, however, is not one to back down and so recruits his old doorman and troubleshooter Donovan, who is just about to be released from prison after serving a six month sentence, a sentence that stemmed from the last time Donovan helped Murray...

A Double bill with Peter Greenaway's A Zed and Two Noughts?

Of course if Donovan had simply said no and walked away we would either not have a film or at least a very different one. So, much like the relationship between Terry McCann and Arthur Daley in Minder, Donovan is soon back to working for Murray.

My reference to Minder is not accidental, given that it was one of the highest rated series on British television at the time GBH and that lead – one hesitates to say star – Cliff Twemlow seems something of a McCann character in real life, having worked as a Manchester nightclub doorman for many years.

In part it is the choice of milieu that makes GBH work, since it is clear that the film-makers actually know about the world they are depicting on screen. More important than this, however, is their fundamental belief in what they doing.

For GBH could otherwise be compared to the various David Sullivan and Paul Raymond films of the era, such as Queen of the Blues, Emanuelle in Soho and Paul Raymond’s Erotica – except for the sense that co-writer, producer, composer (under the pseudonym John Agar) and lead Twemlow and his coterie of friends were intent upon doing the best they could rather than just the minimum required.

Yes, the narrative and characterisation are cliché. Yes, the writing and performances are frequently awkward. Yes, it was shot on video rather than film. Yes, there are basically two car door slamming type sound effects used for punches and kicks. Yes...

... but director David Kent-Watson also throws in some Dutch angles, slow motion and so on that he did not have to and also handles the action scenes well. Many of the exchanges written by Kent-Watson and Twemlow are also, in their own way, quite brilliant:

Donovan: Didn’t know this was a gay bar.
Barman: It isn’t.
Donovan: What about those two poofs over there?
[Fight ensues]

Tracy: The big hard type?
Donovan: Didn’t know I was showing.

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