In this era of Twilight, it makes per­fect sense to make a vam­pire movie.  That series has raised this sub­gen­re of hor­ror to a new com­mer­cial peak.  That said, mak­ing a straight­for­ward vam­pire opus isn’t enough.  It has to be com­bined with a new kind of set­ting or anoth­er gen­re to take flight (after all, what is the Twilight series but a string of goth­ic romances with a lit­tle vam­pire win­dow-dress­ing?).

Dead Cert is a recent film that throws its hat into the mod­ern-vam­pire-flick ring by plant­i­ng its ele­ments in a dis­tinct­ly street­wise English milieu and com­bin­ing it with  a Guy Ritchie-styled British gang­ster plot.  Freddy “Dead Cert” Frankham (Craig Fairbrass) is a reformed crook who is open­ing up a gentleman’s club to com­plete the process of becom­ing respectable.  However, trou­ble rears its head on open­ing night when his broth­er-in-law Eddie (Dexter Fletcher) brings Dante Livenko (Billy Murray), a Romanian crime boss, to check the place out.  Livenko likes what he sees and wants to buy the place.

Freddy resists but Eddie talks him into fol­low­ing up on Livenko’s sug­ges­tion of a wager for the club based on a box­ing match between one of his men and a fight­er of Freddy’s choice.  Freddy sends in Dennis (Danny Midwinter), his oth­er broth­er-in-law and a reli­able bare-knuck­le fight­er.  Unfortunately, Livenko’s fight­er beats Dennis so bad­ly he dies — and Livenko wins the club.  It’s not long before Freddy is gath­er­ing his mates togeth­er to take back their club from this sneaky oper­a­tor — and once the show­down begins, they real­ize Livenko and his crew are vam­pires.

The end result isn’t hard to watch as it unspools before you: direc­tor Steven Lawson main­tains a solid pace, the pro­duc­tion val­ues are good, the cast gives qual­i­ty per­for­mances and James Friend’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy gives it all a nice gloss.  Unfortunately, Dead Cert fails to sat­is­fy for a few impor­tant rea­sons.

The first is that it is utter­ly deriv­a­tive: the Brit gang­ster affec­ta­tions come from Guy Ritchie’s work, the idea of gang­sters fight­ing vam­pires comes from Innocent Blood, the sce­nes with vam­pire strip­pers are lift­ed from Vamp and the film’s struc­ture — half of a non-vam­pire flick that gives way to a vam­pire-dom­i­nat­ed sec­ond half — is clear­ly mod­eled on From Dusk Till Dawn.  There’s noth­ing wrong with bor­row­ing ideas but you have to do some­thing inter­est­ing or unusu­al with them.  Lawson and screen­writer Ben Shillito are con­tent to mere­ly trot out the­se famil­iar ele­ments and put them through the expect­ed paces.

It doesn’t help that log­ic prob­lems eas­i­ly come into view if you think about the plot­ting for a moment.  For exam­ple, Freddy is pre­sent­ed as a street­wise ex-gang­ster but he allows him­self to be eas­i­ly manip­u­lat­ed into a fool­ish wager that is obvi­ous­ly a setup.  The film also presents our heroes rush­ing into the villain’s lair with­out doing any sort of recon­nais­sance or plan­ning — and they also leave their sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers alone when they take off.  It’s hard to sym­pa­thize with a film’s heroes when they spend much of the film act­ing like dimwit­ted rubes.

A sim­i­lar lack of inspi­ra­tion extends to the film­mak­ing.  Lawson achieves a look that is styl­ish in a music video sort of way but he doesn’t bring much gus­to to the film’s vam­pire action.  The action and sus­pense sequences that dom­i­nate the last half-hour of the film are staged in a per­func­to­ry, odd­ly imper­son­al way that rush­es through the action with­out weav­ing it into set­piece form.  The results are suit­ably bloody and thank­ful­ly free of CGI tom­fool­ery but they don’t real­ly excite or shock — instead, they feel like anoth­er required ele­ment that is being checked of a check­list.  When Lawson does go for a styl­is­tic flour­ish — like the bare knuck­le fight that opens the film — it seems to come direct­ly from the Guy Ritchie play­book.

That said, Dead Cert does have one ace up its sleeve: the act­ing.  Everyone here turns in strong work: Fairbrass is a like­able low-key hero, Murray is a suit­ably oily vam­pire vil­lain and the actors fill­ing the var­i­ous thug roles do their work effec­tive­ly with­out going over the top.  There is also some fun work from Steven Berkoff, who gets the showiest char­ac­ter in the film’s “Peter Cushing role” as an advi­sor on vam­pire lore.  He’s ham­my but in a good way, as that is what the char­ac­ter is designed for.  Jason Flemyng also pops up here but don’t let his billing deceive you: he has a two-scene cameo and dis­ap­pears quick­ly.

To sum up, Dead Cert is a weak entry into the new-wave vam­pire sweep­stakes.  It’s not dif­fi­cult to sit through — but it’s also too deriv­a­tive and unin­spired to inspire any­thing else but a shrug from gen­re enthu­si­asts.

Dead Cert (Blu-ray)

Dead Cert (Blu-ray)

Freddie Frankham (Craig Fairbrass, The Bank Job) is work­ing his way into the East End London big league with the open­ing of his night­club, but soon real­izes he’s made a grave mis­take by build­ing it on the sacred land of Dante Livienko (Billy Murray, Rise Of The Footsoldier) — oth­er­wise known as the leg­endary vam­pire The Wolf. Dante wants the club, but Freddie isn’t going to give up his turf with­out a fight, lit­tle real­iz­ing that he’s tak­ing on a 500-year-old leg­end of mor­tal com­bat in a bat­tle to the death …Dexter Fletcher (Kick-Ass), Steven Berkoff (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Lisa McAllister (How To Lose Friends & Alienate People) also star in this styl­ish­ly grit­ty horror/gangster mashup from gen­re spe­cial­ists Black and Blue Films that tears across the screen to deliv­er blood­ied fight action!Also avail­able on DVD!






Dead Cert (DVD)

Dead Cert (DVD)

Freddie Frankham (Craig Fairbrass, The Bank Job) is work­ing his way into the East End London big league with the open­ing of his night­club, but soon real­izes he’s made a grave mis­take by build­ing it on the sacred land of Dante Livienko (Billy Murray, Rise Of The Footsoldier) — oth­er­wise known as the leg­endary vam­pire The Wolf. Dante wants the club, but Freddie isn’t going to give up his turf with­out a fight, lit­tle real­iz­ing that he’s tak­ing on a 500-year-old leg­end of mor­tal com­bat in a bat­tle to the death …Dexter Fletcher (Kick-Ass), Steven Berkoff (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Lisa McAllister (How To Lose Friends & Alienate People) also star in this styl­ish­ly grit­ty horror/gangster mashup from gen­re spe­cial­ists Black and Blue Films that tears across the screen to deliv­er blood­ied fight action!Also avail­able on Blu-ray!