It hasn't been long since British films consisted predominantly of either Monty Python films or period dramas about repressed characters. Everything changed in 1998, however, when Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels created fresh appreciation for the darkly comedic British gangster genre. Following in this format is Canadian director Mike Scullion's Gobshite. While not a Briton, Irish-born Scullion weaves together a Ritchie-esque tale of Irish-British hooliganism, treading heavily in the footsteps of his predecessors.
Gobshite is British vernacular for "A person regarded as mean or contemptible. A blabbermouth, or a stupid person." Ronnie Banks (Andy Curtis) is a gobshite. His contemptible nature has made him a thorn in the side of Stanley Briggs' (Brendan Dempsey) otherwise successful crime organization. Banks' fantasies of moving up in the organization are dashed by Briggs early on in the film. In retribution, Banks devises a plan to haul in a big score to start up his own organization. A quaint Irish family becomes involved after Banks manages to take over their pub to cover up his true intentions. Overlooking the family's tenacity to hold onto their livelihood proves to be a vital flaw in Banks' plan.
The film plods along predictably, punctuated with scenes of farcical, over-the-top violence. Despite some great performances, Gobshite falls short of its potential when it comes to comedy. While the plot line of films like Snatch served to produce absurd scenarios that were ripe for humour, Scullion forms a basic gangster movie and attempts to infuse it with laughs by way of gratuitous violence and the occasional odd character. Unfortunately, toenail extraction and a mute sidekick aren't enough to stand up against the heavyweights in this genre.
Furthermore, Scullion neglects to add much character to his characters. While Curtis' performance of the ignoble Banks is well-formed, the rest of the cast are left underdeveloped. A successful dark comedy is full of quirky characters, and aside from Banks, you won't find them in Gobshite.
Scullion's film is just okay. Dark comedy is difficult to do well and the heavyweights are difficult to compete with. Had the film taken any great strains to emancipate itself and steer away from the formula, Gobshite could have been better than just okay. It fails where others have found success, and this is ultimately the film's downfall.