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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 September 2012
'Once Upon A Time In The Midlands' (2002) was Shane Meadow's third film, for me it's one his most unmemorable movies to date (only because he has made some true British classics in recent years) but it's still an entertaining comedy nevertheless.

With a strong cast of British talent including the wonderful Ricky Tomlinson, Kathy Burke and Robert Carlyle (one of my favourites), all of whom give good, 'real' and convincing performances. This film is a simple social comedy/drama reminstant of an average Ken Loach movie.

After seeing his ex-girlfriend turn down a marriage proposal (by her new boyfriend Dek) live on a television chat show, Jimmy, a small-time, Scottish born villain (Carlyle) returns to his hometown in the Midlands in an attempt to try and win her back. A love triangle develops when Dek and Jimmy fight for her affections, whilst other family members are caught up in the middle of it all. It's a simple enough plot but with a good deal of humour (Ricky Tomlinson made me laugh as the country music enthusiastic singer).

Here we have a working class movie which entertained me on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Not essential, but still worth checking out.
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on 28 June 2017
Loved this when I first saw it on television and it is a cracking story. Robert Carlyle plays a real waster in this and as always is a brilliant actor.
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on 24 January 2015
Yet another superb film from the superb direction of Shane Meadows. All of Shane Meadows are great, funny, and very "bittersweet," quite mickey taking of the extreme sections of the working class. Very watchable, well acted and well scripted withiout much input from Shane Meadows - the actors simply improvise.
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on 25 March 2006
When Jimmy wakes up and sees his ex-girlfriend, Shirley, on the telly, taking part in a chat show, he can hardly believe his eyes. Then when he notices that his foster sister, Carol is sitting next to her, having her relationship with the father of her children, Charlie picked over by the participating audience, he comes properly awake. And then, when some prat comes shambling on stage with a bunch of flowers and proposes to Shirley - and Shirley, stunned and embarrassed, turns him down, Jimmy is suddenly filled with a sense of macho competitiveness and is determined to go down to Nottingham and win Shirl back. His efforts throw the lives of Shirley and her friends in to chaos.
There were three reasons to buy this DVD: 1) I live in the Midlands, 2) a host of my favourite actors are in the film and 3) it came highly recommended. Reason 1 is probably irrelevant, as a previous reviewer has mentioned. The characters in the film represent people in similar communities all over the country. Reason 2 is valid. There's Robert Carlyle (Jimmy, the idle Glaswegian petty criminal ex-boyfriend), Ricky Tomlinson (Charlie, Carol's Country and Western performer ex-partner), Kathy Burke (cheerful, tolerant Carol - but at the end of her tether with Charlie and Jimmy) and Rhys Ifans (the dorky, uninspiring but faithful Dek) - and they're all brilliant. The other, not-so-well known actors are good too. Reason 3 turned out to be right. I really enjoyed the film. Low-budget films like this have the advantage of being forced to rely on a good story, good direction and excellent acting because they can't deceive the audience with amazing special effects. It's like real life. I recognised these people. I've met people just like them - and liked them.
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on 28 March 2017
Great dvd many thanks
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on 5 September 2017
Brilliant, love it!
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on 6 April 2017
Great movie brilliant cast it's a must see had me In stitches from the start Kathy Burke as usual was amazing great all round entertainment.
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on 11 August 2017
Excellent a great British film with an all star cast lots of humour and down to earth writing
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on 31 October 2010
I recently saw 'This is England 86' on TV and impressed by Shane Meadows thought I'd check out his filmography/back catalogue. I've enjoyed most of his other films but was very disappointed with this, especially given the excellent cast.

Plotless, meandering, unfocused, unfunny. The latter is the film's really weakness. I think Shane Meadows is an excellent writer of drama and even comic moments within drama - but outright comedy is obviously not his forte. Even the issue of comedy is problematic. This is how the film is billed (a point emphasised by its cast) and yet not only is it lacking in humour, towards the end it seems to turn into a serious drama.

[Spoilers in this next bit.] I must also say that the film lacks any psychological depth/realism. Shirley falls back in and out of love with unconvincing speed with Jimmy who in turn goes from wanting a second chance to unreconstituted slob literally overnight.

Given the title, I was also a bit disappointed that there were no references to or thematic links with Sergio Leone's work.

Like I say Shane Meadows is a talented writer/director - but he was definitely having an off year with this project. If you've seen his previous worked and enjoyed it you might be best to avoid this. It lowers his batting average.
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From the days when it was a legal requirement to cast either Robert Carlyle or Rhys Ifans if you wanted to get lottery funding for a British film, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands is another in Shane Meadows' line of deeply disappointing films before he finally came into his own with Dead Man's Shoes. To be fair, the project went through major development Hell, and the results are all too obvious in the sketchy construction and characterization. Carlyle's bad boy spurred into winning back his wife Shirley Henderson (sporting the most irritating little girly voice in history) from nice guy Ifans after seeing her on a daytime TV show is never really developed or even properly introduced, and the plot, such as it is, doesn't get going until the movie is half over. The tone is awkward, with Carlyle opting for convincingly unpleasant naturalism while Ifans lapses too often into sitcom acting, leaving the acting honors to go to Kathie Burke. There are a couple of excellent moments at a park bandstand and a final confrontation that hint at a better film that could have been, but it's all too easy to share Meadows' own disappointment with the film as a whole.
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