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Set against the turbulent mid 1980s of money, privatization, unions and dramatic media evolution: A life-long group of friends find themselves at the bad end of a redundancy pay-out and invest their savings into a racehorse, hoping that one final race can turn their fortunes around.Written by
The ingredients were all there but it doesn't make for an agreeable meal.
I was curious to see this film, as sadly it seems it will be Bob Hoskins swansong, and he is here as always, very watchable but ultimately can't save this earnest and well meaning but disappointing picture. The main plot revolves around a group of soon to be out of work print workers who come together to buy a racehorse, because one of them has a gut feeling it's a winner. I don't know a huge amount about the horse racing world, bets and bookies, so it didn't bother me so much that those scenes seemed unrealistic as another reviewer pointed out, what's more important to me is the story. The central thread is the bond between a father (Phil Davis, excellent without even trying) and son (Calum McNab), and when the father is dying of cancer he regrets not taking enough risks for his family to get them a better life (Even though he was a gambler most of his life)so his son takes a risk on buying a racehorse from a bloke in a pub, so far so improbable. Thrown into this mix are an assorted bunch of characters from the print works at the never named newspaper, who also invest in the horse despite all being on the verge of redundancy. Of these only rising star Jason Maza ('I always look hard') and Adam Deacon (Nice to see him getting away from the rude boy lad role) stand out, the rest of them really adding nothing to the plot or story while the other weaker actors really stand out as a distraction and some of their roles really should have been written out. With the huge amount of young British female actresses to choose from, it seems incredible that such poor choices were made in some of the younger women that were cast. Only the older talent (Agutter and Tushingam) hold their ground here. Other names add gravitas to the proceedings here and there including Perry Benson and Vincent Regan who does his able best but his character is so inconsequential he may well not have been there and obviously did the cameo as a favour - be that as it may, at least give him some good dialogue and purpose. Although this is set in the 80's against the backdrop of the printing strikes in Wapping, this doesn't add much drama to the central theme and the production design seemed to alternate between early 1970s and 1980s at random intervals. Hoskins is revealed to have a shady past but no one seems to mind. The script is weak too, some characters have the odd good line, but the film is no where near as funny as it thinks it is nor as moving as it should be. The strongest scenes are really those between father and son, as the spectre of death looms over them, these moments are among the most moving in the film where as a subplot around the central character being too scared to ask out the girl he really loves while he confidently sleeps with the femme fatale doesn't ring true at all. Though I will give Calum McNab credit for his speech at the funeral scene, he really isn't a strong enough actor yet to carry a film. Another problem is the film's opening, it lacks any punch at all, and for the first twenty minutes your left wondering where its all going. A whole plethora of characters are introduced without any of them seeming important to the main plot other than they are there to invest money. Director Sacha Bennett has been given a credit for additional material on the film which suggests to me he was either unhappy with the script as presented or he felt that it really needed a re-write and he would have been correct. I watched this because I will support British Independent film but the lesson here is get the script right first before you shoot because this is a mess and reeks of 'Too Many Cooks'. There could have been a charming little film here and despite all of its flaws it nearly succeeds but fails at the finish line for me not because of budget but because of the screenplay, which is a shame not least of all for Bob Hoskins.
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