Five Seconds to Spare (2000) Poster

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Weird and a little comic but definitely with more cult appeal than anything else
bob the moo23 August 2004
William is an aspiring young musician who has come to London to, hopefully, make it to the big time with his band. Forced to play corny piano music in a shopping centre to pay his rent, William meets Madeline who he falls for – only for her to show up at one of his gigs with another man. While he gets a bit of a break playing live on radio, his band sign with their new manager Vince who is good at making contacts but is into drugs and is unhinged. Events progress around William until he witnesses a bizarre and shocking murder of a fellow musician at the hands of two dwarfs.

With a plot summary as weird as that how could I not tune in to watch this film and I suppose I was ready for something that would be very much a cult item as opposed to something that would be easily accessible and, to a greater extent, I was right. The plot opens with a brutal and unnerving murder and jumps back several weeks to find William arriving in London.

From this point onwards the film flirts with real life but gradually gets progressively weirder as it goes. In some ways this is interesting but in other ways things happen that are 'normal' but yet seem unexplained, unlikely or out of place. In terms of traditional narrative this doesn't make too much difference because the film seems like it is all over the place for much of the running time, only coming together in a strange and a little unsatisfying conclusion.

While it will not be to everyone's tastes, it is still interesting enough to be worth watching. The film blends the world of musical hopefuls with murder, weird imagery with a strange comic tone that will appeal to some, but it will be the minority. I quite enjoyed it for being something different but must admit to not being totally won over by it simply because I did find it hard to get into. It is very dark in tone and this was enough to keep me watching it even if at times it did seem to be drifting. The cast are a mixed bunch but mostly they do well. I'm not particularly fond of Max Beesley but he does quite well in the lead role but he is overshadowed by a very strange but strong performance from Winstone who does well with a character that is hard to understand for almost all the film. The other main members of the cast (Hille and Cervi) are both pretty strong and there are minor roles for Pertwee and Serkis with an enjoyable little cameo from John Peel - but the film is at its best when Winstone is on the screen.

Overall an interesting and strange film that will appeal to a small cult audience but certainly not to the majority due to its strange story and lack of a really satisfying narrative flow. Worth a watch once as long as you are open to just being patient and a strong performance from Winstone is a draw but generally it is just a bit too 'strange' to be considered a particularly good film but definitely one that will have a small cult following.
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2/10
Where's the music?
jessieswift14 November 2005
Don't let the Smiths referencing title fool you, this film has nothing of musical interest whatsoever. As the deliberately obtuse plot meanders slowly and pointlessly towards its unsatisfactory conclusion, we are left having to endure the company of a group of characters so mind-numbingly underdeveloped that we really couldn't care less if they were murdered by dwarfs. The sparse script, which presumably feels its lack of dialogue will create an unsettling rather than tedious atmosphere, is played out woodenly by a group of familiar names and vaguely familiar faces including Ray Winstone, Andy Serkis and Sean Pertwee, all giving performances they've probably forgotten they even did, although there is an inexplicable cameo from John Peel (playing, it would seem, some kind of low rent John Peel), getting about one line but hanging around in the background a lot. The central character, the band's keyboard player, writes dire piano ballads (at one point he plays a Barry Manilow song to impress a girl. This is supposed to show how dedicated he is to her that he's willing to stoop to music that awful to impress, but what it really does is shine a light on his own influences). His band, understandably, want to play something more upbeat, although their indie rock version of the song is no classic. Keyboard man spends much of the film sulking and pouting about how his band don't want to play any of his rubbish songs and that their material is "too commercial". Are we supposed to like this pretentious, pompous idiot? In the end, however, any movie about music will live and die by its music, and here "Five Seconds to Spare" makes the bold and novel decision to virtually dispense with it entirely. Whoever wrote the score had the easiest job in the world because this movie is virtually soundtrack free, never a good thing normally but in a music film it completely ruins your opinions of the filmmakers' tastes. There aren't even much more references to great music outside of the title. I don't know if they couldn't afford to pay for these songs but they obviously didn't spend the money on a decent script.
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4/10
Reminds Me Of Other ( Poor ) British Comedy Thrillers
Theo Robertson14 November 2005
FIVE SECONDS TO SPARE is yet another British movie made at the turn of the century that can't decide want it wants to be and instantly reminded me of countless other British films that came out at the same time proving yet again that if you want to get your movie financied knowing people in the business is imperative while possessing screen writing skills is not a priority

The story starts with our protagonist William witnessing a gruesome murder . The narrative then jumps back in time and shows us that William is a budding musician who has moved to London as a career move . It's at this point FIVE SECONDS TO SPARE decides it's going to be a comedy and I can't communicate how the opening murder jars with everything else in the story . Anyone seen YOUNG SOUL REBELS ? This was another British movie that opened with a murder then for some inexplicable reason decided it was going to be about the London soul scene in the 1970s . If a movie starts with a bloody murder shouldn't it remain a thriller and not become a comedy ?

The movie also suffers from too many pointless cameos . Anyone seen MAD COWS ? We've got John Peel playing himself along with Ray Winston playing ...well Ray Winston . We've also got Sean Pertwee who obviously just turned up so he could say he's appeared in every British movie made in the last five years and since Keith Allen was busy that week we've got Andy Serkis playing Allen's role . If the " Brit Pack " want to get together can't they just meet up at someones house instead of producing a movie ? And like MAD COWS the humour is silly and unconvincing instead of being funny

I could spend a lot of time dissecting what is wrong with this movie but I can't really be bothered except to say it's yet another British movie that was rushed into production with a painfully underdeveloped script . No doubt the people who worked on FIVE SECONDS TO SPARE had a great time unlike the audience and if you've got a couple of hours to spare I'm sure it can be spent more wisely than watching this
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9/10
I saw this excellent film at the Fourth Harwich Film Festival, October 2000.
scrungefuttock19 October 2000
This gripping British thriller is based on the cult best seller `The Dwarves of Death' by Jonathan Coe. It is set in London and tells the story of William (Max Beesley) and his band `The Alaska Factory' as they attempt to follow their dreams of Rock and Roll fame.

The film starts darkly with William witnessing the bizarre murder of the lead singer of another band, apparently by two dwarves. The film then takes us back three weeks to show the lead up to this strange and shocking event.

In this short space of time we see the wide-eyed William gradually become disillusioned with the idea of pop stardom as his band and management try to force him to pen more commercial material and their unstable producer, Vincent (Ray Winstone), seems to teeter on the edge of drug-induced madness. It is Vincent's association with a 70's punk band `The Dwarves of Death' that seems to hold the key to the murder and the British DJ John Peel puts in a notable cameo as a studio assistant who helps William track down their only record.

`Five Seconds to Spare' is an excellent film; good use of London locations (notably the Millennium Dome), a well structured and exciting story, excellent performances by the cast and a superb soundtrack all combine to deliver a gripping and ultimately satisfying movie which deserves to do well.
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