Once Upon a Time in the Midlands
2 out of 5 stars
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a tinned spaghetti western This odd hybrid of a movie takes the basic structure of an old Western and lays it over a middle England romantic comedy. The result is a bit strange and awkward, but also quite good fun. And it marks another step up the casting list for filmmaker Meadows (Twentyfour Seven, A Room for Romeo Brass). Although where's Bob Hoskins this time? Anyway, this is the story of the wayward Jimmy (Carlyle), trying to return home to Nottingham and regain the affections of Shirley (Henderson) and their now-teen daughter (Atkins), who he abandoned years ago to lead a life of crime in Glasgow. But Shirley is now in love with Dek (Ifans), even though she's not quite sure about their future. Meanwhile, Jimmy's sister (Burke) and her mad family are also dragged into the fray as a trio of Scottish hoods descend in search of Jimmy and the money he stole from them.

There's enough going on here to keep us entertained--the film is energetic and funny, with decent performances from the entire cast. But everyone looks like they're just a bit too relaxed. While Henderson and Ifans create surprisingly meaty characters, Carlyle never sinks his teeth into the character or situations. Meadows continues to show a gift for discovering teen talent; Atkins is superb, while Shim (aka Romeo Brass) has an amusing marginal role. But the overall film has a gimmicky feel, like the filmmakers were so pleased about their "tinned spaghetti western" that they forgot to make these people fully believable. It's all a bit contrived and constructed, with handy plot points that echo the structures of almost every other film you've ever seen. It's enough fun to keep us smiling sporadically throughout, even if it never becomes real enough to engage us.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.Aug.02

dir Shane Meadows
scr Paul Fraser, Shane Meadows
with Robert Carlyle, Rhys Ifans, Shirley Henderson, Kathy Burke, Ricky Tomlinson, Finn Atkins, James Cosmo, Andrew Shim, Kathy Thresher, Antony Strachan, David McKay, Vanessa Feltz
release UK 6.Sep.02; US 29.Aug.03
02/UK 1h44

Old habits die hard. Shirley just can't resist Jimmy's charms (Carlyle and Henderson)...

carlyle ifans henderson burke
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a tinned spaghetti western send your review to Shadows... Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall