The End - Review
Review by Michael Edwards
THE gangster movie has been a Hollywood fodder for a long long time. It’s been glamourised, glorified, gorified and shoved this way and that in various attempts to harness that magnetic ‘something’ about the the criminal underworld.
Equally appropriated is the East End gangster, most recently in the works of one Mr Guy Ritchie. It is fitting, then, that it is two of its stars who decide to get behind the image in this superb documentary amount some proper East End rascals.
The stars in question are sisters Nicola and Teena Collins who, born and raised in the East End of London, were pretty close to some of those plucker geezers who resorted to a little bit of villainy now and then.
From their excellent vantage point on the fence between the glamorous world of glossy imagery and the reality of the East End itself they set out to give a voice to those people whose experiences are all too often appropriated and distorted by the mediating lens of the media.
The biggest risk was perhaps that they might colour the documentary with their own experiences and opinions. Watching the first few minutes with its stylish graphics and black-and-white film look it would be easy to suspect this could be the case.
But as soon as the interviews start any such suspicions go out of the window as we are treated to a compelling, honest and intimate portrait of a ragtag group of rascals, rogues and villains.
So, rather than being an attempt to impose ideas on the viewer, the look of the film is the experience of Nicola Collins as a photographer shining through to great effect.
Framing these interviews with this filmic feel is, it seems, a choice that at once hides the quality of the image (it was shot on digital to avoid the intrusion of a full film crew) and to create an intimate, timeless feel to these people who are slowly becoming an endangered species.
The structure of the interview allowed the interviewees great freedom to roam, and they really opened up. Shocking stories about fights, gun battles with the police and robberies are delivered with an alarmingly casual nature that gradually reveals an ideology behind the lifestyles these men were born into.
Yes, they’ve done bad things, but they’ve known their limits. You don’t steal from your own, you leave women and kids alone, and you never grass on your mates.
It is this candour drawn from the remarkable rapport reached with the interviewees that mark this out as a unique and absorbing documentary. There’s not one second of artifice in the duration of this film.
When someone reaches a topic they can’t speak about, they say so and, much to the credit of the filmmakers, these moments are left in so that the viewer can imagine what can’t be said and, more importantly, why it can’t be said.
Overall, The End is an enthralling series of character studies that sheds new light on one of the most common character archetypes in film whilst also capturing a unique period of time in a unique part of the world. It’s a joy to watch from start to finish.
Running time: 85mins
UK DVD Release: June 8, 2009