RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS is available now in the US by SP Releasing.
It is unusual for a director to have two of their films released on the same day, but being usual is not something writer and director, Savvas D. Michael cares much for. RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS, another descent into a maddening assemblage of genres, Greek tragedy and a cockney sonic, was released synchronously with ORIGINAL GANGSTER in the US. Watching both films together, they could be considered as companion pieces narratively, stylistically, and aesthetically with tales and fables of family, tragedy, love and with gangsters thrown in for good measure. For Michael, why do a straight up villain piece when you can produce an epic gangster opera that explodes the British canon of the crime thriller. There really is something about Michael’s films that challenges the gritty realism of British film to go fuck itself. But it does so with all the majestic opulence of a camp, leather trousered Dirk Bogarde in, The Singer not the Song (1961).
Where ORIGINAL GANGSTER is firmly set in a fabled London, RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS departs from usual territory and in so doing takes the gangster film on a road trip to the English countryside, arriving in the devilish lair of British folk horror. The film follows the oscillating fortunes of Jeremiah, a small-time petty thief and Jolie, a modern-day gangster’s moll as they pick their way through a spiritualised gangland of religious sects, secret societies and many a glass of red wine. Think a cockney Bonnie and Clyde in the Da Vinci Code.
In a bizarre religious strewn scene, Jeremiah meets local villain-cum-guru, Adrestos, and Jolie, in a three-way type showdown...
In a bizarre religious strewn scene, Jeremiah meets local villain-cum-guru, Adrestos, and Jolie, in a three-way type showdown, which sets Jeremiah and Jolie on to a mission that will reward each with a prize of a million pounds. Adrestos tells both stories of the New World Order, a sect seeking to unleash hell to earth, and The Essence, a religious order battling to save the world. After being informed of their true lineage, Jeremiah and Jolie agree to journey into the countryside to save a young boy, the saviour, from the New World Order. In the final third of the film, the cockney Bonnie & Clyde battle the Devil (a horned Adam Deacon, who would have seen that coming after Anuvahood??) and his minions in a gloriously theatrical ritualistic battle of sex, violence, sacrifice, and belief taking us to the film’s close, where the audience finds itself right back at the beginning of the story. Questions answered. Plot threads tied. But a little mystery and enough wonder to lure the audience into a never-ending-story closure of possible beginnings and future violence. Sequel anyone?
Savvas is building a recognisable output, that if he were operating at a different level in the industry, would be classed as the work of an auteur.
Looking at RED DEVIL, ORIGINAL GANGSTER and RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS, Savvas D. Michael is building a recognisable output, that if he were operating at a different level in the industry, would be classed as the work of an auteur. There are recognisable tropes, filmmaking practices and characters. Michael’s films get produced because they operate on a model of exploiting the minimal funding for maximum affect. To echo the knight from The Last Crusade, resources are used…wisely. The appearances of Adam Deacon and Steven Berkoff imply these two are becoming regular players in Michael’s films, an acting model that has served British indie crime thrillers well in the 2000s. Actors who need the break and/or the money are saluted by Michael. His films further provide a welcome platform for working-class actors. Whatever else you think of his films, it is refreshing to hear that working-class accent in fantasy tales, in roles that are not the comedy sidekick. And once you attune yourself to it – it works.
RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS contains all the hallmarks of what we coming to expect of a Savvas D. Michael film.
RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS contains all the hallmarks of what we coming to expect of a Savvas D. Michael film. Opera, westerns, classical music, religious imagery, Dickensian tales of orphans and lost children, showdowns, rap, sex, violence, love, betrayal, redemption…the film runs the gamut of all cultural tastes, film genres and traditions. It is a cacophony of form. Watching, you are taken to the Hong Kong stylistic excessiveness of a John Woo film, fanboy nods of a Tarantino vehicle and the outrageous excessiveness of Ken Russell. Mainstream tastes may view Michael’s films as messy, but they are also a funhouse ride, sweeping through film conventions and styles. And in a time of Covid restraint, who does not want a bit of excessiveness?
There is a certain feral quality to Michael’s films, a creative, unbridled talent. But, given the commercial restraints his films are produced under, the results say much of his talent, creativity, and resourcefulness. And British films need more of this idiosyncratic approach. Whatever type of film you want to watch this Christmas, westerns, fantasy, gangster, or horror; just watch RIGHTEOUS VILLAINS – it has them all in one crazy hit.