Outside Bet – review
REVIEW: Jamie Dunn
RELEASED: April 27
Spare a thought for the cockney, surely cinema’s most maligned stereotype.
Time was that Hollywood was the worst offender – Dick Van Dyke’s overripe accent in Mary Poppins springs to mind – but recently the most depressing salt of the earth, ‘eart of gold mockney renderings have been homegrown, with the likes of Nick Love and Guy Ritchie appropriating the East End for their tales of football casuals and wide boy gangsters.
By comparison, Sacha Bennett’s Outside Bet – a 1980s-set comedy about a ragtag crew of struggling print workers who club together to buy a racehorse – appears a charming prospect. With an impressively assembled ensemble cast, Bennett looks more capable than most of pulling off this Ealing-esque setup.
Likeable, baby-faced Calum MacNab plays smart-mouthed copyboy Mark ‘Bax’ Baxter. He’s supported by a cross generation of British film’s finest; Adam Deacon as cuckold shoe salesman Sam ‘The Soleman’, Philip Davis as Bax’s Dad ‘Threads’, and that peerless cockney stalwart Bob Hoskins as ‘Smudge’, print union man beset by the bosses of Fleet Street, whom are threatening mass redundancies.
The ensemble may be thoroughbreds, but they’re flogging is a dead horse. Adapted by Bennett and Nick Smith from Max Baxter’s autobiographical novel The Mumper, the slight story feels like a feature-length episode of Only Fools and Horses. No tired cliche remains untouched and no pile of horse manure remains untrodden in the film’s desperate attempt to elicit laughs. Bennett is so taken with one chronic tattoo-orientated gag he uses it three times, the polite smile it raises diminishing after each reveal.
Outside Bet is also low on surprise. If you find a bookie stupid enough to take the bet, have a flutter on whether you think ‘Bax’ will get together with that lovely bit of salt that works in his local. Outside Bet? Dead Cert more like it.
Bennett’s most unforgivable bungle, though, is his take on 1980s politics. Initially set up as working-class men battling against the savagery of Thatcherism, these union members then appear to jump on the decade’s ‘greed is good’ bandwagon. Who needs job security and a decent pension, the film seems to ask, when a lucky few can win big at the gee-gees and have loads-a-money?