When a film is sold on the premise of watching Ed Sheeran take a dump in public or Jeremy Corbyn tell someone to “allow it, wasteman”, there may not be anything else to add. They’re only two of the many cameos in Adam Deacon’s Sumotherhood, a follow-up to 2011’s Anuvahood, which parodied his own star-making turns in the west London-set dramas Kidulthood (2006) and Adulthood (2008).
Curiosity alone will undoubtedly tempt some people. But, really, there’s a limit to what you can do with celebrity faces and on-the-nose references. And there’s only so much Denise Van Outen, Gogglebox, and Fruitella (“a badman sweet”) one person can take before the nods of recognition start to hurt their neck.
Sumotherhood is, at times, so overstuffed that it starts to wear on the nerves. Yet, Deacon has also found a wholesome, and funny, heart to his film, circling back to the awkwardly desperate performance of masculinity that drove its prequel, and simply doubling it up. Sumotherhood is a true bromance comedy, as best friends and wannabe players Rico (Deacon) and Kane (Jazzie Zonzolo) try to pay off their debts with hapless attempts to rob rapper Lethal Bizzle, and then a local bank.
Deacon’s film starts, as Anuvahood did, with tightly held close-ups of lips engaged in hushed conversation, as deals are done and the goods are delivered, only to step back and reveal that Kane mistakenly interpreted the request for a “strap” (gun) as the request for a strap-on phone. He beams, like a little child, as he points out that he’s also brought along some protective screen wipes. Kane is the sweetheart in this “Dumb and Dumber” duo, who says “please” when he mugs people and insists on paying the parking ticket for his getaway vehicle.
Zonzolo has a real knack for physical comedy. When handing over an empty duffel bag to the bank teller, urging her to fill it with cash, he ever-so-gently sets his guns down on the counter. He’s also exactly the counterweight needed to balance Deacon’s Rico and his livewire bundle of insecurities – this is a guy so determined to be taken seriously as a tough, roadman type that he’s even programmed his Alexa to respond with “fam, click clack”. Deacon, who co-wrote his script with Zonzolo and Michael Vu, has also tried to work in some of his own experiences with bipolar disorder. (When allegations of sexual misconduct against his Kidulthood director, Noel Clarke, surfaced in 2021, Deacon took to social media to show his support for the accusers and to make his own allegations of bullying and sabotage, adding that the experience took a severe toll on his mental health.)
In reality, there’s not that much room here for Deacon to really get his intended message across. Rico mostly worries about whether he’s taken his meds, while Jennifer Saunders turns up to deliver a brief, slightly superficial speech about misogyny, internalised racism, and abuses of authority. While Deacon and Zonzolo are a highly watchable duo, the same can’t be said for the majority of the film’s supporting characters, who come across as outsized, sometimes manic stereotypes. It’s Rico and Kane who make Sumotherhood worth the ticket – everything else is just noise.
Dir: Adam Deacon. Starring: Adam Deacon, Jazzie Zonzolo, Richie Campbell, Eddie Kadi, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, London Hughes, Ed Sheeran. Cert 15, 97 minutes