Going Off Big Time review

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""Liverpool, welcomes you"" declares a road sign in the opening credits of Jim Doyle's directorial debut. If Going Off Big Time is anything to go by, surely a more appropriate greeting would be "Wipe your feet on the way out".

Nearly as grimy and dangerous as Scorsese's New York, the city proves the perfect setting for this funny and angry thriller. It focuses on the combustible relationship between Clayton and Ozzi, who form the standard De Niro-Pesci axis: one's clever and hard, while the other's got a little bit of a temper.

Dominic Carter excels as the short-fused Ozzi, and Neil Fitzmaurice successfully carries the narrative, even though it's hard to believe his rapid transformation from shaggy-haired shell-suit sporting Scally to smooth-suited pistol-toting Jimmy Conway wannabe. More convincing is Bernard Hill as wise old lag Murray, who's sorely missed when events overtake him and the action moves beyond the prison walls.

There are rather obvious nods to both Carlito's Way and The Long Good Friday, but this is all based on true-life events which writer/star Fitzmaurice has gathered together from years of living in Merseyside. This realistic edge proves to be Going Off Big Time`s greatest strength, but also causes the biggest problem. There's far too much of an episodic feel to the action, and the characters are too lightly sketched to provoke any great emotional reactions to their fates.

In the end, it all comes over as a symptom of Fitzmaurice's background in lightweight comedy writing - - but this also has its bonuses. Going Off Big Time is frequently funny and replete with pop-culture references that don't sound hopelessly laboured. And by the end, the razor-sharp wit, matched with the razor-sharp violence, means that such comparisons with Tarantino are, for once, not unjustified.

It had to happen sometime: a British gangster film set in the present that doesn't make you cry for the past. Some dodgy bit-players and thin characterisation are compensated for by sharp dialogue and the absence of any Mockneys.

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