Six Stages of Hell – ‘The Stars Collection’ Part 3: Al’s Lads (2002)

als lads

Directed by: Richard Standeven

Halfway through ‘The Stars Collection’, and I haven’t felt this fatigued since I pulled a hammy climbing Beeston Bump three summers ago. I can’t say that the films I’ve sat through thus far have been woeful, but they’ve been tiring to watch. There’s something to be said for two films containing ample amounts of stodgy dialogue and plodding scenes that lead up to moderately expensive yet completely unnecessary action sequences, in that they set-up a point of interest for the viewer, yet retaining that interest is where these films struggle.

I hope things get better…

Grizzly dark violence, a back alley throat slitting, not too far removed from ‘Boardwalk Empire’ leads into a shot of the Titanic…. no wait; this is another luxury cruise liner. Great, I think to myself, this film is going to be stuck on a bloody boat. On board we discover that the crew are a merry bunch of Scousers. By day they serve the wealthy travellers, by night they nick booze from the kitchen stock room and fight bare knuckle boxing contests.

Three of the lads – Jimmy (Marc Warren), Dan (Ralf Little) and Eddy (Stephen Lord) plan, when the liner docks in the States, to make a new life for themselves in Texas. With a stash of gin bottles they attempt to con a couple of sharply dressed Yanks. The two men, who moonlight as streetwise gangsters, outsmart the lost Englishmen, and talk them into a bare knuckle boxing contest. Jimmy, the slugger of the trio, is up for a scrap.

I think Marc Warren deserves some praise for his wiry performance as Jimmy, although at times it is distracting that his boxing storyline runs parallel to Eddy and Dan’s comedy double act, he plays with aplomb a believable gutsy fighter who lives with the whole world on his shoulders.

The fights scenes in the film are surprisingly realistic, though we’re not getting the poetic drama in-ring drama of ‘Raging Bull’, or the attention to detail of ‘The Fighter’, there is battling grittiness shared with movies that have featured bare knuckle contests such as ‘Fight Club’ or ‘Snatch’, where each punch can almost be felt through the screen.

The action shifts to Chicago; where after impressing Georgio, the lead gangster, Jimmy is groomed as a fighter under the tutelage of a wise man named Boom Boom played by Richard ‘Shaft’ Roundtree, operating here in the Morgan Freeman role (Hollywood’s equivalent to the Makelele role?); whilst Eddy and Dan scrub factory floors and carry out delivery jobs for a grey haired fella named Birch.

It is in Chicago that the lads figure out they’re working on the lowest rungs of Al Capone’s pay ladder. Jimmy is set up to take a dive in a high profile championship fight with a boxer named Sammy Cruz, Eddie and Dan realize that the heavy wardrobes they’ve been shifting around town contain dead bodies. As danger circles, the lads find out they’ve gotten involved in a situation way over their heads.

I have a minor gripe with the chummy Scouse chat between the three lads, mainly because it is rather annoying. To give you a flavour, one exchange is “How’s it going mate?”, “Its tough mate”, the word “mate” gets used bloody hundreds to times. I’m aware that might accurately reflect working class Liverpudlian dialogue, but Christ, this wasn’t reflected in ‘Nowhere Boy’ or ‘Backbeat’ that featured salt of the earth lads from Merseyside.

There are also two bizarre, and I wouldn’t call them cameos, but very minor supporting roles in the film for Warwick Davis and Ricky Tomlinson. Davis is miscast as a murderous gangster dwarf (did such a thing exist in Capone’s Chicago?), and likely this was one of the roles that he drew inspiration for him when working on ‘Life’s Too Short’, and Tomlinson jovially larks about at the beginning and then right at the end of the movie. His appearance is rather baffling in both scenes and adds nothing to the ***Spoiler Alert*** happy ending.


Al’s Lads on IMDB
Buy Al’s Lads [DVD]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s