In a perverse way, Fred Schepisi should be congratulated for Last Orders. After all, it takes some kind of talent to take some of Britain's most experienced actors and create such a staggeringly tedious film.
To be fair, Schepisi set himself a near-impossible task with Graham Swift's slight but moving novel, which gently explores the friendship between five blokes over 40 years. Switching perspective from chapter to chapter, the book affords an insight into the lives of a group of ordinary working-class Londoners. But however involving it may be in print, there's nothing approaching a compelling screen narrative. The action unfolds in a series of flashbacks, as Ray (Bob Hoskins), Vic (Tom Courtenay), Lenny (David Hemmings) and Vince (Ray Winstone) gather together to take the ashes of the latter's adoptive father, Jack (Michael Caine) up to be scattered off Margate pier. En route, Schepisi dips into their collective history to reveal past indiscretions, repressed desires and betrayals. Only that makes it sound exciting, and it really, really isn't.
Last Orders is soporific, stilted and astonishingly badly acted. The performers playing the flashback versions of the principal cast are mesmerisingly dreadful, but the veteran thesps are poor too. Courtenay and Winstone do what they can with minor roles, but Hoskins looks uncomfortable and Hemmings spends most of the film looking like a pissed owl, overacting almost entirely with his gargantuan eyebrows. Only Caine emerges unscathed, proving yet again the two things that have distinguished his career: 1) He's a charismatic, subtle screen actor, 2) He's bloody terrible at picking his projects.