Lights, Camera, Inaction
I love cinema. It’s one of the great things America has given us, like rock ‘n roll, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the phrase ‘sex addict’ to excuse the behaviour of men everywhere, which make life worth living. Down the years Britain has made various attempts to grab a slice of the action. Admittedly we are tiny compared to the American dominance of popular culture, but we have a go.
In the 50s we made films, seemingly all starring Kenneth More, specifically designed to be on telly on rainy Sunday afternoons. The sixties brought us the rise of James Bond (arguably the best movie franchise ever), youth culture, teenagers, and the desire to have it off before we got married. This desperation for ‘crumpet’ with ‘dolly birds’ in an age where adulterous couples had to give their names as Mr. and Mrs Smith at hotels when they went on ‘dirty weekends’ led directly to the cloning of Sid James from a hyena and a rutting stag, to star in the Carry On films.
The 70s brought even more crumpet based soft porn (Confessions) and some truly hideous tv spinoffs (Holiday On The Buses, Are You Being Served? were standouts). In the 80s it all got classed up a bit. Posh folk wafted in and out of Merchant Ivory films, and dreary costume dramas based on classic literature were farted out by complacent lazy filmmakers and praised to the skies by complacent lazy reviewers. In the 90s the Alan Clark influenced crowd began to Cockney the place up a bit, and Danny Boyle got off the blocks.
To sum up, the British film industry was by and large parochial and shit. production companies were littered with creatively stunted herberts, who only got into the business because they had rich enough parents to let them work for nothing until they crawled far enough up someone’s backside to get a paying gig. These people had no interest in making anything vaguely challenging, and certainly none in muscling their company’s output into the public consciousness. All this led to every decent actor or director having to go to America to get anything like a decent part or project off the ground. It’s still happening now. Idris Elba is currently enjoying huge success in England as Luther, but he had to go to America and be on The Wire *swoon* to get it. Lennie James was brilliant in Line Of Duty last year, but the bulk of his recent work has been over the pond in Hung, the much missed (at least by me) Jericho (NUTS!), The Walking Dead, and currently starring alongside fellow Brit Mark Strong in AMC’s new cop drama Low Winter Sun.
Anyway, all that leads to the nadir of the film industry. On Valentines Day this year a film was released which will come to stand as the poster child for everything that’s wrong with British cinema. (At this point you have to guess how much money it made in its first week of release. Start at a million, and deduct a point for every pound you are out.)
Look at it on paper. You take Run For Your Wife, a farce by Ray Cooney which had run for decades on the London stage. That should at least get a few people interested yes? maybe idly curious as to how it has translated to the screen? No? Ok, then add in the casting coup of Danny Dyer, playing against type in the lead role of John Smith (I know, I know; stick with me). Now whatever you think of him (and I happen to quite like him despite his limitations) you’d expect that it would be a good selling point, and that the audience he brings to any project would put a few bums on seats. Still no? Well try this.
Because the play ran for so long a lot of people played roles in it at various times. A hell of a lot. And a lot of them you’ve heard of. So some clever person decided that the cast for the film should include as many of them as they could find parts for. It led to the following names being attached to the project. Denise Van Outen, Sarah Harding, Neil Morrissey, Christopher Biggins, Lionel Blair, Derek Griffiths, Cliff Richard (YAY!), Barry Cryer, Rolf Harris (cough), Vicki Michelle, Jenny Seagrove, Judi Dench, Russ Abbot, Bernard Cribbins, Richard Briers who sadly died 2 days after release), June Whitfield, Maureen Lipman, Su Pollard, Andrew Sachs (playing a clumsy waiter, AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!), Robin Asquith (CRUMPET!), Donald Sinden, and I’m not being funny hordes of others. The West/Scales axis, Tom Conti, Dennis “Theme tune” Waterman, shedloads.
Now armed with that you’d think the publicity machine would crank up madly, and you wouldn’t be able to move for luvvies telling tales of how they worked for nothing and how much fun was to be had on set. You could’ve had Loose Women and This Morning stuffed to the gunnels with guests till Doomsday. Surely the interest would’ve meant queues round the block at every multiplex to see a brilliant traditional British farce in the old traditions? Yes?
OK, so it’s answer time. How much fold do you think this monument to our creative community raked in in its first week? Well, the answer is….
No, it’s not a typo.
The fact is that even if it was a bad film, and by all accounts it is a turkey on steroids, that is a pitiful performance for an opening. I’m pretty sure I could video something on my phone and scare up more interest than that. I can only imagine that the publicist (I checked, they did employ one) just assumed the cast list would do it and took the year off. I did hear Cooney on Front Row on Radio 4 to be fair, but he seemed more intent on boasting about who was in it than actually selling the film.
The laziness and arrogance surrounding this project is breathtaking, and despite the fact that this country produces enormous talent until the people behind the camera and in the offices realise that those vulgar American marketing budgets do actually work in that people know there’s a f*cking film coming out, the best we can hope for is more dreary low budget crap about how cool it is to be a football hooligan, or a story about hilarious goings on at a wedding. it’s no wonder Sean Connery f*cked off really.
So, how many points did you get? I got -4,999,253……….