Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Three and Out

I enjoyed this British black comedy far more than I expected to; for some reason the ad campaign had persuaded me that it was a story about a loser set on the London Underground, when in fact its structure more resembles that of My Favorite Year, with Mackenzie Crook being drawn along in the wake of Colm Meaney’s suicidal former hellraiser on a final, set-things-right weekend. I won’t claim it’s right up there with Richard Benjamin’s almost-forgotten gem, but it’s made with pace and verve and features strong leads and a rather good supporting performance by Vera Drake‘s Imelda Staunton.

Storywise there’s stuff that doesn’t hold water, but it’s one of those films that captures your goodwill so that all your “Now, wait a minute…” moments are held off until you start reflecting on it afterwards. It’s not like, say, Kinky Boots, where even a script from the excellent Tim Firth couldn’t disguise the joyless safety of every story choice. None of it Firth’s fault, I’d venture to say; I can pretty much envision the meetings.

Led by colleagues to believe that a third death on his line will result in a payoff that will allow him to get out of London for good, Tube driver Crook naively goes on a search for a determined suicide with whom he can strike a deal. On Holborn Bridge he finds one, in the form of Meaney’s Boudu-like down-and-out.

Meaney vanishes with his rent money and reappears the next morning, shaved, scrubbed-up and suited and driving a hired Mercedes. What follows… well, I suppose you could sit down and work out the beats. It’s neither as ambitious nor as resonant as In Bruges, but it disarms the viewer with its streak of upfront bad taste. Its premise angered rail unions, who apparently put on a protest at the premiere.

Until I picked up the DVD, that protest was about all I knew of the film. The critics would have been of little help, had I read them first. Those I’ve checked out since are of the “Oh, thanks for putting me right; until I read your review I was erroneously thinking I’d enjoyed myself” variety. I suppose that for once, a film had caught me off-guard; with no preparation or expectations, I was thinking like the audience.