Wednesday 27 April 2022

REVIEW: The Bezonians (2022) - Starring Andreas Karras, Savvas D. Michael and Vinnie Jones

Review by Jon Donnis
A film about Greek Cypriots in London? Why yes, I would be happy to review! Since I am Greek Cypriot and I grew up in London, I consider myself something of an expert on the genre.

The Bezonians is the name of a social club of sorts in London, run by a character called Plato (played by Andreas Karras), where various generations of Cypriot immigrants come to socialise and gamble away their hard-earned wages, as well as drink and party deep into the night.

We meet a mixture of characters, the super cool Achilles (Savvas D. Michael), the tough guy Costas (Peter Polycarpou), Mavro Mike (Chris Tummings) and Anthony (Jamie Crew), most days it is just about a bit of weed dealing, partying with girls, and gambling, but one night Plato gets goaded into a game of poker with Lola (Lois Brabin-Platt), but she is a hawk, and wins big, and if Plato doesn't pay up the £50,000 he loses, then her boyfriend Willard Greb (Vinnie Jones) will come to collect.

The film is pretty much half over by the time Lola comes into it, and by then we have got to know and enjoy a lot of the characters of the club. But this is important, as it will be up to these characters to find the money to help Plato and save their social club.

It is rare that a film introduces a major plot point so late into a film, but by doing it this way, you already have a real affinity with the characters, you know their backstories, and that makes you care even more.

Every actor in the film really puts in a good showing, everyone is at the top of their game, and even the little stand alone scenes really fit well within the context of the whole film.

Now, I will say that as a Greek Cypriot I wish we had more of the culture, there are bits here and there, but there are things missing, and that is partly down I expect to the fact not all of the cast are Greek Cypriot. For example, if you spend 5 minutes with a Greek, you will hear the word "Malaka" about 20 times. You will also hear "re", and "ep". These are just little things. And then there is the London accent, many of the characters sounded like just typical Londoners, but Greek Cypriots in London have a very specific accent, and I hardly heard it in the film. And I think when you have a film where the culture and ethnic background of the main characters are one of the focus points, you have to have a certain amount of authenticity in there. Now I don't mean stereotypes, but you need  that little bit extra. The two old guys playing backgammon in the corner with Ouzo or Raki, just little touches like that really make the difference, and I do think this film misses a few of these things that only a Greek Cypriot might notice. 

One thing that Greek Cypriots do is have different accepts depending on who they are talking to. If you are British born, but you are talking to a Cyprus born person, and you are talking in English, then you tend to use Greek grammar, and pronounce certain words differently, it is hard to explain, it is not quite "Greeklish" but it is along those lines, it is a type of comedy that I have never seen used in any film or TV show with Greeks. It is very strange to non-Greeks so when showing it to a non-Greek audience it would be funny.

With that said, no one else will even think of any of that, so does it really matter?

The Good
Really well directed, with great likeable characters from top to bottom. A fun story, with plenty of great set pieces.

The Bad
I felt in needed to be more Greek Cypriot. I swear I only saw one Komboloi the entire film? I literally saw 3 sets today alone visiting my Dad.

Although slightly advertised as a London Gangster film, I didn't really see it like that. It was just an enjoyable 90 minutes, of great characters and great storytelling. We need more films featuring Greeks and Greek Cypriots, we have one of if not the richest culture in history, we have the best real-life characters, the best language, the best food. We need more.

I loved The Bezonians and I score it a very strong 9/10. But to get that elusive 10/10 I need perfection. And a film with Greeks and no one says "ep Apagorevete"?, Come on man!

The Bezonians on DVD and digital from 2 May (101 Films).