Three and Out
dir Jonathan Gershfield
scr Steve Lewis, Tony Owen
with Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Imelda Staunton, Gemma Arterton, Gary Lewis, Annette Badland, Kerry Katona, Antony Sher, Rhashan Stone, Mark Benton, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Steve Money
release UK 25.Apr.08
08/UK 1h48
Three and Out
Life or death: Cook and Meaney

staunton arterton lewis
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Three and Out This intriguing film falls between genres, billed as a comedy put playing out as a drama with some extremely touchy subject matter. But it keeps our attention from start to finish, and the cast is superb.

Paul (Crook) is a London Tube driver who's had two people die under his trains in three weeks. He then learns about the "three and out" rule: if one more dies within a month, he'll get a massive severance payout. Soon he's scouting for suicidal people, eventually hiring Tommy (Meaney) for a date with destiny. But Tommy has some loose ends to tie up in the Northwest, and Paul tags along to keep an eye on him. Eventually they track down Tommy's estranged wife (Staunton) and daughter (Arterton), who aren't exactly pleased to see him.

The opening act is played as a lively gallows comedy, with blackly humorous comments about death and suicide that are actually quite astute, even though they're also somewhat creepy. It isn't until Paul and Tommy hit the road that the story shifts into something much more engaging, giving Crook and Meaney the chance to help their characters blossom and deepen into people we care about. And the film comes fully into form with the arrival of Staunton and Arterton, who make the most of their much more complex roles and add a level of real emotion and drama.

This isn't to say that there aren't still some problems along the way. A running gag involving Sher (as a suicidal cannibal) is seriously distasteful, as are the cheap homophobic gags and the unnerving attempt to make suicide noble. On the other hand, there are other side themes that actually shift and evolve cleverly throughout the film, such as Paul's corny dream of an isolated Scottish idyll. And some of the bit players are hilarious.

In other words, the film is a strangely mixed bag of thoughtful, punchy drama and offbeat, edgy comedy, some of which works beautifully while other elements fall completely flat. The problem of the icky central plot is never quite resolved, even with a lot of inspirational plot thread-tying at the end. But the vivid characters make it worth the ride.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 27.Mar.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall