Going Off Big Time
is a British gangster thriller laced with post-Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
humour, yet free of that film's flash visual gimmickry and populated with convincingly real characters. Opening with a scene of violence and mayhem in a pub, the film unfolds in flashback as Mark Clayton (Neil Fitzmaurice, who also wrote the economical screenplay), recounts to his lawyer how bad luck and worse judgement turned this ordinary young man first into a hardened con, then into a small-time gangster. The prison sequences feature a masterly performance by Bernard Hill as the older con who shows Mark the ropes; the second half charts Clayton's rise to power taking over nightclub doors, running protection scams and, comically, dealing drugs from an ice-cream van. The style is plain vanilla with the rundown Liverpool settings giving a stark northern atmosphere somewhere between Get Carter
(1971) and The Fully Monty
(1997). It's small scale, unambitious stuff, and though Fitzmaurice packs plenty of plot into 83 minutes, more of Mark's romance with Natasha (Gabbi Barr) and his attempt to go straight would have lent the ending greater impact. The strong performances by a cast of almost entirely unknown actors are the best thing about the film.
On the DVD: The anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image is sharp and detailed, though rather grainy in night-time scenes. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't get a lot to do but presents sounds with natural clarity. The extras comprise the trailer, two minutes of sounds bites and a minute of "B-roll", none of which add anything to the experience. --Gary S. Dalkin