Neil Jordan has made some cracking films in his time. Just look at his latest, The Good Thief, a languid piece of Gallic class. So it comes as something of a disappointment that his premise about two actors masquerading as gangsters should be so mismoulded by another's clumsy hands.
Jordan's concept is a simple one: desperate for cash, a pair of jobbing Dublin thesps, O'Malley (Michael Caine) and Tom (Black Books' Dylan Moran), conspire to rob crim Barreller (Michael Gambon). Their plan? To impersonate a debt-collecting gang. Not the brightest idea, maybe, and things inevitably go wrong, O'Malley and Tom soon incurring the wrath of the real crooks. Their only hope of escape is to pose as a plethora of characters, but Tom falling for Barreller's daughter (Lena Headey) doesn't help...
Writer/director Conor McPherson previously wrote the criminally underseen I Went Down. Here, he's out of his depth, taking Jordan's concept and turning it into a farce with few laughs and an almost pathological misuse of talent.
Yes, some scenes amuse (Caine's appalling Shakespearean acting is a must-see), but McPherson's script soon spirals down the plughole as it tries to leapfrog between romantic comedy and black humour.
A more seasoned lead would have helped, but Moran's inexperience is evident as he bumbles through scene after scene. And poor old Headey is stranded too, left to kick her heels in her now customary role of `tacked-on love interest in regional comedy'.
Still, at least she gets some decent screen time. Miranda Richardson, on the other hand, is woefully underused as the Mob boss. Why employ a great actress and reduce her to a bit part?
Michael Caine gives it his considerable all, but it's not nearly enough. Desperate mugging does not a comedy make - - if you want to see that, watch French & Saunders.