Today: February 26, 2024

Hard Boiled Sweets

There’s a tick-box approach to far too many British gangster movies, and the makers of Hard Boiled Sweets have filled out the form.

There’s a tick-box approach to far too many British
gangster movies, and the makers of Hard Boiled Sweets have filled out the form.

Call it the RichieLove checklist. Tarts with hearts?
Tarts without? Old-school gentlemen gangsters? Trigger-happy young bucks?
Swearing, guns and cash? Check, check and check again.

Hard Boiled Sweets’ only deviation from this stock form is a seaside
setting, but Southend – the grubby, faded coastal destination of choice for
East Londoners – might as well be the Thames riverbank for all the novelty this
brings.

Eddie (Paul Freeman) runs the
town and takes a slice of every drug deal, every call girl and every scam.
Everyone in town knows this, and they’re all after his money.

There’s the pimp and his young ward; the bent copper and his ex-con fall
guy; Eddie’s trophy girlfriend and her lover, who’s also Eddie’s driver; and
Jimmy The Gent, the Mr. Big from London town itself.

Jimmy (Peter Wight) is only
by the seaside to collect his cut of Eddie’s cash and add it to his own, much
larger pile. Everyone knows this, too, and are all biding their time to make a
move on over a million pounds. The scene is set for double- and triple-crosses,
casual violence and soft-porn titillation.

Because there are quite a lot of people for quite a short film, the
first 20 minutes or so is spent introducing them and their back-stories. Utilizing
a succession of voice-overs – some of which, as the film unfolds, are revealed
to have been delivered from beyond the grave – these also gives the film its
title. Everyone is introduced with a sweet-related moniker, like the Glacier
Mint or the Gobstopper, shorthand for their respective personalities. These are
never used again.

These lazy substitutes for style and narrative are indicative of how
creatively bereft this film is.

Even Nick Love and Guy Richie, the godfathers of this
genre, would balk at using characters as shallow and clichéd as this. The
setting is underused. British seaside towns can lend themselves to sleaze, grot
and brutality – Brighton Rock, or London to Brighton – but here the
all-too-familiar Cockney geezers could just be on a day trip from the big city.

The seaside is the end of the line, where people end up when things go
wrong, where dreamers yearn for somewhere that doesn’t close for eight months
of the year. Hard Boiled Sweets presents Southend as Vegas-by-sea, a place
where people talk like they’re constantly in film noir shadows. It doesn’t ring
true.

The two old stagers try to redeem things – both Eddie and Jimmy are
mildly menacing, in an old school, good-to-their-mothers fashion. No one else
has the chops for anything but moody geezer stylings.

The pay off owes much to Tarantino
but the dialogue and, it must be said, most of the performances show why this
is out on disc just six weeks after a theatrical release.

“Brains is overrated,” says Jimmy the Gent at one point. There’s the
quote for the DVD cover.

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