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Big George Is Dead (1987)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Mourners at the funeral of Big George include chief mourner Boogie, who arrives from his London council flat, and Tony, who arrives on a flight from Trinidad. Tony's arrival, after fourteen years away from England, surprises several mourners and angers Boogie.

In a café, Boogie wants to know what Tony has done with his share of their gang's money. Tony now runs a hotel in Tobago, to which he will return tomorrow. He offers Boogie his share of £10,000 plus George's share of £10,000, and shows Boogie the banker's draft to prove it, but claims that Boogie can only cash it with Tony present and with Boogie's passport. To arrange this, they return to Boogie's council flat in Hackney.

Tony seems angry to learn that his old flame Yvonne is now Boogie's wife. Tony wants to see his son, Andrew, but Yvonne and Boogie stress that Andrew, who calls Boogie 'dad', is now their son. Insisting on staying for the family meal, Tony talks to Andrew as his 'uncle', discovering that he wants to be a musician. Later, Tony examines a photo from Boogie and Yvonne's wedding, and while Boogie believes the best man is now in Trinidad, Tony claims to have not seen him there.

Tony and, reluctantly, Boogie, go to West London for a night out like the old days of the 'Wild Bunch'. Tony recalls their gang's old scams and argues that he did not betray his friends but had to flee quickly because his face was too well-known. To cement their renewed friendship, Tony buys champagne.

Many of their old haunts are closed, but Boogie takes them to meet old friends including Silus and Ed (now known as Amir) playing cards and pool behind an apparent peep show. After a disagreement over a dice game, young Travis hits Boogie, but Tony in turn hits him with a pool cue. When Travis pulls a knife, Tony hits him again, scarring his face, and tells the 'little boy' to leave.

Increasingly drunk, Tony and Boogie visit Fat Larry's club. Larry recalls George's scams on hippies in Carnaby Street. Travis lies in wait outside. Boogie is maudlin, thanking Tony for saving him, and whilst the younger generation worries him he thinks Travis was right about Boogie getting old. Boogie believes his generation 'blew it', coming to Britain and going wild: he never intended to grow old in Britain but is now here for life.

In the street, Boogie and Tony are attacked by Travis and his gang. Before Travis can make Tony beg him to not cut his face more substantially, the police arrive and the gang flees. In the police station, Tony reveals that he lied about needing to be present for Boogie to cash the draft: he just wanted to spend more time with Boogie. The police recover some of Tony's possessions, including the banker's draft. They are suspicious about the sum of money but have no evidence of criminality. Tony and Boogie do not want to press charges against their attackers, with Boogie pointedly claiming that he could not see black faces in the dark and that white faces all look the same to him. In Tony's recovered possessions, Boogie finds a photograph from his wedding to Yvonne, and realises that Tony had lied: he knew about Boogie marrying Yvonne and had met the best man in Trinidad.

In the flat, Boogie thinks Tony has played with his head. Tony really came back to see his son: the £20,000 is not for old times' sake but to help Andrew. Recalling the past fourteen years, Tony claims that West Indians who move to Britain are wrong to think that it is simple to leave city life and go home. Tony tells Andrew that Boogie was injured dealing bravely with thugs, and has an awkward chat with Andrew, who suspects Tony is not his uncle, but only because 'uncle' is often an affectation: to Andrew, this is 'just Tony'. While saddened by this, Tony calls the title of 'Uncle' a mark of respect. He says an emotional goodbye and takes a taxi to Heathrow.