Charlie was a British effort in the typical gangster style. It begins more like an A&E biography. Various characters from the film with ties to Charlie appear to be giving their insights on the man for a documentary camera. Charlie Richardson, it appears, was one of Britain’s most infamous gangsters. The film, directed by Malcolm Reeds, no relationship to a certain starship tactical officer, tries hard to be another Goodfellas. The film utilizes the same style of retrospective narration. There’s also the trademark period songs and freeze-frame on a particularly violent image. There’s enough rough language to fill a South Park feature film. In addition to the American mob clichés the film is riddled by more than bullets. Typical dry British humor abounds and appears entirely out of place in an otherwise brutal depiction of character. Although I found the film highly derivative and inconsistent, I must admit that at times it was quite entertaining. Like watching a train wreck, it was often difficult not to be drawn to the film’s exploitive portrayals.
The film has an annoying habit of abruptly switching time periods without much warning or visual clue. We find ourselves often enough in Charlie’s younger days. These transitions are seamless; in fact that is the whole problem. They are too seamless. It requires far too much attention to detail to know where you are in the timeline. The film also resorts to stylized cinematic distractions such as multi-frames during some of the trial sequences. The frames are completely unnecessary and require the viewers to again remove themselves from the flow of the action.
Charlie is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is actually a very fine print. Color is incredibly realistic with dead-on flesh tones. The transfer is flawless. There are absolutely no marks or scratches to be found. Deep blacks and fine detail dominate the print. Contrast is outstanding, particularly in the courtroom where dull décor blends perfectly with the colorful garb. The DVD offers a strong high bit rate throughout, never seeming to fall below 6 mbps.
The audio is an unremarkable Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Simple pan effects are the extent of any aggressiveness in the mix. The occasional crooner songs often play a bit too loudly and can cover up even important dialogue. The bass did not budge much at all even under the guns of violence. Most of the time dialogue was audible, when the songs weren’t playing. Pretty much everything happens front and center.
A trailer is all the bonus material provided in this release. The menus are completely plain and static. The opening forces you to skip through an advertisement.
I think this film works better in a way it was never intended to operate. I found myself enjoying the film far more once I approached it as a British send up of American mob films. From that perspective, the film can be a hoot. It’s still quite a stretch, and unlikely worth the time or hard earned cash to play the game. It’s what happens when those blokes from across the pond try their hands at a “typical gangster style.”