The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan (2012)
“This beautiful game isn’t life or death… it’s more important than that.”
Director: Paul Tanter
Cast: Nick Nevern, Simon Phillips, Rita Ramnani
Synopsis: When unemployed soccer hooligan Mike Jacobs encounters an old friend during a bloody pregame brawl, he finds the answer to his problems – credit card fraud.
With the Rise & Fall of the White Collar Hooligan, the British film industry takes us once again into the murky underworld of London gangsters. Quite a few of those involved in this film also appeared in or produced the same year’s horror comedy Strippers vs Werewolves. In that film they seemed to be having a lot more fun than the audience, but White Collar Hooligan is a better movie than that. Quite a few of the same people were also involved in writer and director Paul Tanter’s earlier film, The Hooligan Wars. It’s like they’re all part of a gang or something. Maybe that’s the nature of low-budget British film-making these days, but there’s something quite admirable in the way these people band together, regardless of what you might think about the quality of their output.
Anyway, the title is a little misleading as its anti-hero Mike Jacobs (Nick Nevern) is a long-term unemployed football fan. He is a hooligan, it’s true, but that endearing trait plays only a peripheral role in the film’s plot. When we first meet him, he’s languishing in a French prison, and the first part of the film is told in flashback as we follow him through a series of disastrous job interviews in which his interview technique humorously explain just why Mike has trouble finding work. In fact, I was left wondering just how he managed to secure interviews in kid’s nurseries and women’s clothes shops in the first place. The sequence does at least succeed in projecting Mike as a strangely likeable Cockney lad rather than just a one-dimensional prison inmate.
The encouragement of his patient girlfriend Katie (Rita Ramnani) is showing signs of wearing thin, so when Mick runs into old mate Eddie (Simon Philips, who also serves as the film’s producer) who offers him a cash-in-hand job delivering packages across London, he feels pressured into accepting despite the fact that the company vehicle offered by Eddie is a Smart car, and Mick suspects the packages contain drugs. As it turns out, Eddie’s actually involved in a large-scale credit card cloning operation, and once he feels he can trust Mick, he promotes him to the position of runner, one of a team of four who travel around the city each night withdrawing cash on fake cards copied from the data stolen through compromised cash machines. Each team pulls in a hundred grand a night, and director Paul Tanter does a good job of evoking the cavalier thrill of getting away with what is described as a victimless crime in these early scenes. Mick’s life is transformed and he quickly establishes himself as a valued member of the team, but it’s a rule of crime movies that a criminal career must have its down side, and Mick’s newly-found champagne lifestyle takes a toll on his relationship with Katie. Things then take a turn for the worse when a ‘business’ trip to Paris goes badly wrong…
While White Collar Hooligan has nothing new to offer, it certainly isn’t the worst movie in the genre. It at least manages to get across the enthusiasm of its makers for the project, something which the over-rated Nick Love, the apparent doyen of the modern British crime flick, has singularly failed to do throughout his career. In fact, White Collar is quite entertaining, with a convincing performance from Nick Nevern in the lead role. Nevern’s a big lad, and he looks like he can handle himself, but when the script calls for it, he’s also adept at projecting a vulnerability and lack of confidence. Simon Phillips is perhaps a little less convincing as Eddie, but that’s more down to his being miscast than any glaring deficiencies in the quality of his performance. Tanter also wrote the film’s script, and he displays an admirable level of restraint regarding the amount of violence contained in the film, choosing to focus more on the interplay of the characters than on a succession of bloody gangland hits. The storyline follows the well-worn rise- and-fall template, and yet it does seem a little unfocused at times, with certain sub-plots going nowhere. But it also possesses plenty of energy and enthusiasm, and its short running time ensures it never drags. While there are the usual elements of betrayal in the storyline, it comes from an unexpected direction – or, perhaps more accurately, doesn’t come from the direction you might expect – an indication that Tanter has attempted to avoid at least some of the genre cliches.