There's something to groan at in virtually every shot in this Brit ensemble sports comedy.
It’s not so much that the quality control team on the film Outside Bet were clearly out to lunch during its production. No, they appear to have emigrated to Fiji, set up a primitive, nomadic civilisation in the Northern foothills and severed all telecom links to the West.
Here is a film where we're given something to groan at in virtually every shot. The list of offences include: mis-fired jokes; flat dialogue delivery; cloying sentiment; wayward plot strands; awkward product placement; dull camerawork; boring settings; bungled references; poor casting decisions; unnecessary characters; unadventurous soundtrack selections; no clear narrative aims; an undercurrent of misogyny, zero emotional investment; and a lead character who is about as sympathetic as an uncommonly taciturn slaveholder.
That lead character is Mark 'Bax' Baxter played by Calum MacNab, a young print worker with a cheeky glint in his eye who loafs with his chums in a generic Camberwell boozer.
Those pals include – and these are, we assure you, their actual character names – short-sighted (both literally and metaphorically) gang leader, Smudge (Bob Hoskins), louche, pencil-moustached bastard, Johnny Gossamer (Terry Stone), doddery mirth supernova, Alfie Hobnails (Dudley Sutton), Bax’s ailing club-singer pops, Threads (Phil Davies), smash-happy hard nut, Micky (Jason Maza) and, finally, purported sartorial Godhead, Sam the Soleman (Adam Deacon, thrown into a tweed three-piece and a flat cap and assured that "everything will be okay").
To cut a very, very long story short, a man walks into the pub selling a racehorse, so our liquid-lunching gadabouts club together and buy said racehorse. Cue heartening, Ealing-esque rags-to-riches yarn where our salty underdogs cast off the oppressive shackles of their demonic paymasters and purchase a one-way ticket to easy street? Alas, no.
What we’re given instead is merrily uneven botch job in which nothing is as simple as it should have been. Every potential revelation is laid on the table face upward as soon as possible and problems – surely the dramatic lifeblood of any half decent film? – are solved off camera and between scenes.
There’s a love rivalry between Johnny Gossamer and Sam the Soleman. Next! They haven’t got the money to pay for a horse trainer. Next! Bax has an affair with a saucy, Rebekah Brooks-like publishing magnate. Next! Smudge has been consorting with the Russians. Next!
There are no hidden depths to any of the characters, no slowburn developments and no lessons learned. There’s no reason to want to spend a single moment with any one of them and, most crucially, you’re offered no reason as to why you'd ever want them to succeed.
The only – only! – reasons see Outside Bet is if, a) you routinely and sincerely weep with laughter at jokes found in economy Christmas crackers from the '70s, or b) would be amused by the idea of seeing people stepping in horse shit and then comically exclaiming, “shiiit!”.
A Brit sports comedy with a half-decent ensemble. Surely Bob Hoskins would know better than to sign up for a stinker?
Very poor indeed.
[Insert glue factory/time to put this lame nag down gag here]