Rossiter fans may be rewarded, but that's about it.
Leonard Rossiter immortalized himself on British television as a stressed out executive (Reginald Perrin) and a mean-spirited landlord (Rigsby) so it's easy to forget he was no stranger to more serious roles, including '2001: A Space Odyssey'. Here he is again playing it (mostly) straight as an opportunist amateur detective / debt-collector, Cyril Dugdale.
Rossiter is ideally cast as the victim of his own failings (greed/selfishness) as his character quickly gets drawn into a criminal world he doesn't know much about. There are hints of Rigsby... the beaten down, below average man confused, helpless and lashing out in his little world.
Nina Baden-Semper (the pretty, smiling, black Barbie in 'Love Thy Neighbour') is a bit more mysterious and menacing here as Femme-Fatale Felicity, but she still wears that winning smile... and a dreadful wig! Her role is ahead of its time, being a strong-willed, independent, black woman - yet it doesn't feel out of place here... except when we go to her house and it's empty bar a few African war masks and 'Black Power' posters! Very silly indeed.
The story opens with Dugdale evicting an Indian family from their condemned house. There's a hint of casual racism through the movie yet it's clear that the Indian family are happy to move on without a fuss if the price is right.
Dugdale falls for Felicity's charms (and money) and agrees to take some compromising photos of a local property developer. Soon after, he realizes that there's a whole lot more to the girl and this case than he was led to believe.
About halfway through it's impossible to even guess what's going on and the show becomes a collection of chase sequences ending with a very long drawn out one in a warehouse. The bad guys wear shades in the pitch black and shoot each other... it's that silly.
There's a poor attempt to tie up loose ends with a comedic finale but this fails very badly. Any other 'comedy' is buried beneath the locations in and around Bristol (which are depressing and grim) and the scenarios of unexpected violence and narrative stupidity.
The incidental musical score is frankly bizarre and extremely distracting. Think of silly, campy British flicks like 'Confessions of a Window Cleaner!' mixed in with the abstract organ grindings of the 'Thriller!' series, and you'll know what to expect. The audio is also a huge letdown and comes across as echoey with lots of background noise.
Colin Welland (Jackanory/Z Cars, etc) turns in a brief, routine performance. Kate O'Mara provides some desperately needed glamour! Familiar face Ewen Solon is also featured but bizarrely doesn't say a word!
The 80 minute TV movie doesn't really wear well after all this time. During the 1970's the United Kingdom was going through something of a social and economic makeover. Pre-war red brick slums were being torn down to make way for big roads and blocks of flats. At the bottom of the heap were immigrant families being shunted around from crappy place to crappy place and on the top were the builders and local politicians making money from this brave new world. This dichotomy is bluntly exposed here but not taken advantage of.
Any fan of Rossiter may be rewarded, but that's about it.
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