3 May 2010 | starvin4megravy
Well ... I've always joked to friends that I'd happily pay to watch Ray Winstone cooking beans on toast. He's perhaps best known here in Oz for the wonderful Vincent, but has been a real favourite for me since his early work.
However, if he'd got the saucepan and can-opener out at some stage in these proceedings, it could only have improved things.
The opening scene is compelling, with Winstone sprawled semi-conscious on the floor amidst the wreckage of a family living room. As if the poor fellow clearly hadn't suffered enough already (even if we aren't yet privy to the particulars of his situation), the almost-forgotten hideousness of Nilsson's Without You provides perfect background music.
Our hero's friends and family rally round in this time of crisis and there's some diverting argy-bargy (amid fantastic London locations) as our group of protagonists is assembled. This stage-setting phase of the movie concludes with the group's arrival at a grimy terraced house - I use that phrase intentionally because at this point the film effectively becomes a conventional play spread over two locations.
This terrific cast never exceeds or even equals the sum of its parts amid production values that call to mind BBC's Play For Today in the 70s and early 80s. RADA's likely advice from an earlier period for portraying cockneys also seems have been in play - drop yourself about 3 social classes and 50 IQ points and you'll be fine, love.
It's no mean feat to tell a fulfilling story within a bubble such as the one created here, and it doesn't really come off - we never learn enough about the relationships between the players or the context that surrounds some of the remarks that are made.
Yes, Winstone's character is supposed to be confused, I do understand that, but I don't believe the audience should be sharing in that affliction.
Stephen Dillane impresses but John Hurt's wasted here, and with his ill-fitting dentures (at least I ASSUME that's what they are ... ) he channels Phil Davis doing his best Albert Steptoe impersonation at one of Mike Leigh's Christmas parties.
The one lasting benefit for me is that I might just tone down my own bad language a little. They just don't stop in this film. Everyone knows that a well-deployed swear word can have massive impact but this dialogue is peppered with Anglo-Saxon to the point where it rapidly becomes not only meaningless but irritating.
I suspect I sounded a little like this at the footy the night before, and I can only promise my neighbours I'll try to be better in future ... if that works I'll tell my daughter she should seriously think about doing the same!