Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Steve Coogan, Lena Headey, Om Pouri, Steven Waddington
Director: John Duigan
Steve Coogan finally makes the audacious leap from TV screen to the big screen, writing and starring in THE PAROLE OFFICER. He has been labelled a comic genius and a modern day Peter Sellers by the film’s producer Duncan Kenworthy, whilst the film itself has been likened to British classics A FISH CALLED WANDA and THE FULL MONTY. How do writer and film fare swaying around on this big pedestal?
Coogan’s character is Simon Garden, an incompetent parole officer with only three rehabilitation success stories out of a thousand. After being transferred to Manchester, he witnesses a murder by a corrupt cop who then frames him for it. Simon’s only hope of clearing his name lies with a CCTV videotape locked in a bank vault, but the only way he can retrieve it is by robbing the bank, and the only people that can help him do it are his reformed former clients: computer hacker Colin (Ben Miller – PLUNKETT AND MACLEANE), boxer turned fishmonger Jeff (Steven Waddington – THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS), and serial bigamist George (Om Puri – EAST IS EAST). They are all coaxed back to crime for one last job, and after also recruiting a young female joy rider, Simon knows he has a quality gang.
A lot of viewers and reviewers will rave on about the non-stop hilarity of this film whereas staunch Coogan fans should be a little disappointed, but have a good laugh nonetheless. The comic idiosyncrasies of other Coogan creations are instantly recognizable in Simon Garden: well-meaning but annoying, inept and out of his depth etc… The film is a basic heist comedy, very British, with Simon as a sort of thick Mancunian James Bond getting into all kinds of amusingly absurd situations and somehow bedding a pretty WPC. Whilst witnessing a murder from behind some stock shelves in a club storeroom he decides to open a bag of crisps and thus blows his cover. His date with the WPC goes badly wrong when in an erotic art exhibition he manages to break off a huge wooden phallus from a sculpture and is accused of being a perv. In other crazy moments Coogan actually did his own stunts such as falling backwards of a tall rooftop into a canal, abseiling between rooftops 100 feet high and swinging Tarzan-style from a high chandelier into a toughened glass window.
Apart from a pointless Omar Sharif cameo appearance in the film’s final scenes the supporting ensemble cast is very strong. However I find the whole idea of a disparate group of random people coming together as a unit a tad unoriginal and derivative. Of course this is Coogan’s first film, but I don’t see how it can be likened to the two classic Brit-flicks it is most clearly deriving from. It may not be as clever, original or funny as WANDA or MONTY, but it is still definitely funny. I laugh whenever I look at Steve Coogan’s face.