Uniformly dreary 70's aping hitman identity farce, failing to be amusing or exciting.

Released in 2002, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 29 Dec 2003 by Scott Morris
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Ah, the 70's. Sunglasses were larger and compulsory, music had 89% more wah-wah pedal usage, clothes had never been near a natural fibre and things were generally better. This is a school of thought that John Bradshaw, director of this latest in a long line of poor Brit influenced gangster flicks, clearly subscribes to. From fashions to speech patterns to the soundtrack to the set decoration, the first five minutes of the movie do their utmost to convince you that this film is set in the middle of that halcyon decade. Even the film stock has had some of the colour washed from it, making it look like a lost episode of The Streets Of San Francisco. Just as it's only the use of cellphones that dragged Out Of Time from it's eighties sensibilities into the modern era, it's similar gadget namedropping that's responsible for pulling this through time.

It's a pity that this timeframe anomaly is the only interesting thing that there is in this clueless identity farce. Andy (Adrian Dunbar) and Pete (Neil Morrisey), respectively law-abiding pub landlord and petty thief travel to America to seek their fortune but after a few months it becomes apparent that it?s not as easy as it first looked. On the verge of eviction from their rundown motel room, Pete goes on a last ditch thieving run at a swanky hotel, swiping a briefcase containing only an envelope with five grand and a hotel pass key inside it.

Unknown to him he's lifted a payoff for two of the countries premier hitmen, Terry (Donnie Wahlberg) and Tommy (Michael Rapaport). Small mob fish Franco D'Amico (Louis Di Bianco) has been trying to wipe out current Mafia don Ben Cutler (Pete Postlethwaite) and decides to go outside his firm after a previous attempt fails miserably, leaving one goon dead and Benny's right hand nutter with a bullet related limp. For Terry this is the proverbial 'one last job', deciding to settle down and lead a normal life. He also thinks he's found the girl to settle down with in Emma (Claire Forlani), and the two do their best to turn this farce into a romcom when on screen together.

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Meanwhile, rather than take the money and bolt Pete decides it would be a fantastic idea to bluff along with a harebrained scheme to con the rest of the 85 grand payoff out of Franco, which of course falls apart over the course of the next couple of days. The real hitmen do their own investigation into what has happened to their cash and Andy's girlfriend Penny (Amanda Plummer) gets a little anxious to see Andy, flying over to throw another character into the final act that's messy enough as it is.

There's a problem with all this knockabout crackpot antics, in that it's only very rarely and sporadically amusing, let alone funny. Rapaport goes off on some tangential anti-British rants that are low on both anger and humour, spoiling a performance that is otherwise laced with some good throwaway barbed oneliners. Dunbar is hardly stretched with a role that boils down to being aghast at Pete's ideas then agreeing to them, but does as much with it as possible. Everyone else disappoints greatly.

Neil Morrissey, for the uninitiated, was the star of the moderately amusing sitcom Men Behaving Badly in Blighty but after it came crashing to an end a few years back he's become more known for starring in a variety of unbelievably irritating adverts for a home improvement chain. He carries over the same overegged gooning and mugging to camera that might work on a small scale but looks forced and counter productive on a cinema screen. Subtlety is a stranger to his performance. Wahlberg, last sighted in the indescribably terrible Dreamcatcher is saddled with the same 'cold blooded assassin but with an utterly incongruous heart of gold' character that has been done to death.

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The casting of this film appears to have been performed by crack-addled monkeys. A hint for future reference; when casting actors as a nationality other than their own, ensure that they can at least do an approximation of the desired accent before signing them otherwise the whole film gets really silly. Postlethwaite is a fine actor but fails to get a handle on the Italian-American accent for a few scenes before wisely giving up, but Plummer soldiers on finding new and interesting ways to screw up a supposedly Irish accent. She ends up doing a well travelled Irish-American-Albaniain-Cockney-Francorussian impersonation that's as difficult to listen to as it is to describe.

The main problems don't lie in the performances or Bradshaw's direction, but in Tony Johnston's script that lacks more lustre than is strictly healthy. With a complete absence of wit and without any shreds of originality to bang together there's no chance that this was ever going to catch fire. As flat as Holland and as banal as Belgium, there's not a single memorable or likeable character or a situation that's anything other than predictable and, unforgivably, boring.

This avoids the dreaded zero star status by having two or three decent gags, which is still a rotten, Sweet Home Alabama-esque ratio, and for John Bradshaw's directorial style which may be misplaced in the temporal sense but at least creates something interesting to comment on. It can't hide a lazy script that is only noteworthy as an example of how not to do things.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

John Bradshaw
Cast list:
Pete Postlethwaite (Ben Cutler)
Neil Morrissey (Pete Maynard)
Donnie Wahlberg (Terry Malloy)
Adrian Dunbar (Andy Jarrett)
Michael Rapaport (Tommy O'Brian)
Claire Forlani (Emma Cutler)
Amanda Plummer (Penny Archer)
Saul Rubinek (Jazzer)
Mark Thomas (Hobo)
James Collins (Johnny)
Louis Di Bianco (Franco D'Amico)