A couple of months ago we reviewed Rise of the Footsoldier a very brutal, but realistic, look at soccer violence and in particular Carlton Leach and the InterCity Firm. This movie, Cass, is also based on the InterCity Firm, but follows the life of a different individual named Cass Pennant. So does this latest movie compared to Rise of the Footsoldier and can it stand on its own right?
Based on the life of one of the most feared and respected me in Britain, this is the extraordinary true story of Cass Pennant. An orphaned Jamaican baby, adopted by an elderly white couple and brought up in an all white area of London, Cass faced racist bullying on a daily basis. Finding respect only through violence and addicted to its intoxicating power Cass rose through the ranks of football hooligans to become the leader of the notorious West Ham Inter City Firm. From a tormented youth to his status of street legend Cass dished out terrible retribution on anyone who dared to cross him.
Performances in this movie are generally solid, but there isn't anything too outstanding. Nonso Anozie was impressive as the lead character Cass, while Linda Bassett was great as his beloved mother Doll. Unfortunately I was not a fan of Cass' wife Elane (played by Natalie Press) in the movie. I likened her to Carl Williams' wife Roberta in the stunning Australian series Underbelly, but was no where near the exceptional performance by Kat Stewart.
If you liked Rise of the Footsoldier (which we think is still the superior film) then you may also want to check out Cass which also has plenty of heart and tells an interesting tale.
With a budget of around £1,000,000 this was never going to be the best looking movie, but it is fairly impressive with a gritty realism that merges well with the new broadcast footage littered in various locations around the film. The film was shot using Super 16 filmstock giving it a rather grain appearance in some scenes. The film was originally presented at the unusual aspec ratio of 1.66:1 but has been frame for this Blu-Ray release at 1.78:1 so it will fit your widescreen TV.
Encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec the video presentation is good, but not great. There are some compression issues, especially in the darker scenes, but having said that the Blu-Ray format is still vastly superior to the DVD release so if you have the option this is still the best bet, but don't expect the best quality you've seen on the format.
Yet again Eagle Entertainment must be commended for their use of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on this latest Blu-Ray release. Sure, most movie studios now use this format or Dolby TrueHD 5.1, but its the fact that they are are providing this format on movies which are done on such a low budget, and for such a niche market that impresses. As we mentioned in the video section Cass is a very low budget movie, but the audio often impresses beyond what one would expect. Dialogue, for the most part, is pretty clear although the thick British accents may be a little much for some in a couple of busier scenes. There are moments, during brawls, or during scenes with music, were there is some pretty decent use of the surround sound channels - very impressive in fact. I'm not saying that you'd use this as a reference disc for audio, but I can comfortably say that you won't be disappointed.
This disc also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. It's a pretty good effort in itself and given that the HD track doesn't really offer anything outstanding this is a pretty good replacement if you can't play back the HD audio. Sadly there are no subtitle tracks on this disc which is disappointing.
There are quite a few extras on this disc, the highlight of which are interviews with the real Cass and a solid audio commentary.
Commentary with Director Jon S Baird, Producer Stephan Haller, and Actor Nonso Anozie: Not the best commentary we've ever heard but there are three interesting participants here who keep the discussion going with some interesting topics discussed and some more detail about the characters and storyline provided.
Behind the Scenes Featurette (28:39): Despite the horribly low bitrate, and video quality as a result, this is actually a fairly decent documentary which looks at the making of Cass. This includes interviews with the cast and crew as well as Cass Pennant who was on-set during the filming as a consultant and assisting the actors accurately reinact the events depicted.
Short Film "It's A Casual Life" (12:15): A short film by Jon S Baird whcih centers around the gangs from the 1980's. To be honest this didn't do too much for me.
Cass Pennant in his own words (23:44): This is a brilliant interview with Cass Pennant as he details and recalls his childhood, changing his name, life in prison and the shooting. The interview takes place on the streets around the real locations where he grew up and the events of the movie take place. Not the best video quality - hell even the lens has rain spots in places - but it't invaluable, and quite interesting although prepare for a lot of swearing!
Image Gallery: Well over 100 images from the production are presented here for viewing.
Trailers (12:10): Trailers for Crips and Bloods: Made in America, New Town Killers, An American Affair, Rockaway, Battle for Haditha, and The Red Baron (this one is in HD).
Review By: Dave Warner