Director: Simon Phillips.
Writers: James Crow and Simon Phillips.
Cast: Nick Nevern, Kellie Shirley, Jenna Harrison, Con O’Neill, Peter Barrett, Roland Manookian, Lorraine Stanley, Mark Harris, Charlie Bond, Steven Berkoff, and Merveille Lukeba.
Tagline: “Hooligan first, cop second.”
GBH is the latest film to come out of the United Kingdom from actor and director Simon Phillips and distributor Revolver Entertainment. The film is set during the London riots of 2011. In this setting, a love story develops between characters Damien (Nick Nevern) and Louise (Kelly Shirley). Violent events split them apart. A violent and aggressive undertone haunts this film’s story, overall. The film offers an anti-violent message, but that message might be lost amongst all of the chaos occurring onscreen. Overall, GBH is an entertaining film with only a couple film elements hampering the film’s full potential.
If you did not know already, GBH stands for Grievous Bodily Harm. The film’s title is a crime, a violent assault. Thus, the title will give viewers a hint as to what is to come. Damien is the one dishing out some of those assaults. He practices a very hands on approach in his police work. Criminals are thrown in a car trunk, beaten, threatened or intimidated. Viewers will begin to see that there is a fine line between those acting out criminal activity and those tasked with capturing the criminals.
In all of this violence, a love story develops between Louise and Damien. There is very little romance here, however. And, the relationship seems to be one of convenience. Both characters work together on the mean streets of London. Damien is consistently subdued as a character (or from the performance of Nick Nevern) and Louise is indiscernible from Damien’s other girlfriends. Louise only finds her voice near the end of this feature, after a brutal sexual assault. This couple, because of their dangerous work, was doomed from the start.
GBH offers a lot of contrast. As mentioned, there is very little difference between those meeting out the justice and those receiving it. Damien has worked both sides of the fence. He was once a hooligan himself. So, he is familiar with violence. There is also a contrast between Damien and his father, Jason (Mark Harris). Jason is locked up in a penitentiary, while Damien does his best not to follow in his father’s footsteps. Sometimes the fruit does not fall far from the tree, however (a line from Jason). Soon, Damien is right by his father’s side, in jail. These contrasts amongst characters and within characters help define the film’s central theme.
The main themes in GBH involve the use of violence and aggression. The film seems to subtly hint that these two elements are what led to the London Riots. But, this answer is too simple. Frustration is another element that caused some of the violence, surely. Without jobs, what is a youth supposed to use as an outlet? The only appropriate channel for aggression in the film seems to be found on the pitch, with football, or soccer if you are North American. There are a whole series of other outlets for aggression shown in the film, most of which are less savoury.
These three elements, violence, aggression and frustration, are the cause of the film’s peripheral conflict, the London riots, and many of the primary ones, as well. Damien is seen swinging with his baton late into the picture. So, a question develops: is this an anti-violence or pro-violence film? While there are numerous scenes of brutality in the film, the outcome of all this physical activity is, generally, negative. Many of the characters are imprisoned, some at an early age. The film’s message seems a little ambiguous, but this viewer sees the film as more of an anti-violence piece compared to other alternatives. Damien’s struggles with violence and aggression are at the heart of GBH.
GBH has been released in the United Kingdom, but there are no current plans to release this showing in North America. Fans of crime thrillers will have to search abroad in order to find this story. Phillips continues his prolific filmmaking career with his first feature film as director and Phillips shows a knack for developing characters in this piece. Only the poor musical soundtrack and the slightly withdrawn performance from Nevern slow the enjoyment of this title. GBH is a good time spent in a chaotic situation where violence and aggression rule the day.
Overall: 7.25 out of 10.