Top positive review
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A funny romp in the best tradition of absurd British comedy
on 23 June 2013
With no idea of what to expect, I am happy to say that I found this little movie actually very funny. Normally I am not fond of "black comedy" but this unashamedly silly romp manages to stay firmly on the funny side by handling multiple killings off-screen in cartoon style (killer shoots ... BANG! person falls down ... THUMP!), showing very little blood and almost no bodies, and thus justifying its 12A or PG-13 rating.
The plot is lightweight and clearly improbable: Rose, a rebellious, happy-go-lucky kleptomaniac (delightfully played by Emily Blunt) exceeds the boundaries of her criminal abilities by pawning off a fake Rembrandt to a suave but sinister art collector (Rupert Everett, suitably chilling in a sadly limited role). Her amateur scam is quickly discovered and she finds herself the target of her victim's revenge when the furious art collector hires a meticulous, well-respected professional hit-man, Victor Maynard (brilliantly portrayed by Bill Nighy) to eliminate her. Victor comes from a long line of hit-persons, and his mother Louisa (Eileen Atkins in a hilarious, over-controlling role reminiscent of her mad mother character in "Cold Comfort Farm") is justifiably proud of her son's distinguished hired-gun career. Only this time, uncharacteristically, Victor fails to deliver his trade-mark clean shot-through-the-head and instead has time to observe his target who is clearly the wildest thing he's ever seen. After a series of chaotic mischances, Rose hires a reluctant Victor to guard her against her executioners. Victor's lonely life has not prepared him for the strange feelings he starts to experience when in Rose's presence and considerable confusion ensues.
The madcap, breathless pace of this ridiculous story is greatly enhanced by a stellar cast of supporting characters who are a joy to behold in their respective roles: Gregor Fisher (of "Para Handy" and "Scotch & Wry" fame) plays the hapless but well-meaning gofer; Martin Freeman blinds us with some astonishing dental-work, its gleeful appearance punctuating each successful hit (his character Dixon clearly enjoys his work and is thus the antithesis of Victor whose job satisfaction stems strictly from skilful execution); Dame Atkins comes close to stealing every scene she's in, which is saying something when Bill Nighy is around; and finally Rupert Grint who is amazingly funny as Tony, the joint-puffing drifter who innocently gets sucked into the chaos and discovers a hidden talent.
The director, Jonathan Lynn (best known for his superbly clever co-writing of the classic political-satire TV sagas "Yes Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister") competently steers a faultless course with material that is solid gold but could easily have turned to lead. The script (by Lucinda Coxon) is unusually witty and firmly anchored in the best tradition of British understated but ludicrous humour, and I found plenty to laugh about but I know that this subtle approach may not be to everyone's liking. Those who worry about plot holes would have a field day here, but would totally miss the point that this is a "Casino Royal" bit of fluff that does not take itself seriously. In fact, despite the rather grim subject matter, this is a truly entertaining film which succeeds brilliantly (for me anyway) in doing exactly what most movies should, but so often fail to, do and that is, to give you many many laughs, transport you into a fantastic world where there are never any cops or police and, ultimately, leave you feeling relaxed and amused.
The extras in the DVD version consist of members of the cast answering off-screen questions ... which I found interesting. The picture quality is excellent and the musical score is enjoyable (great singing from Imelda May) without being too intrusive.