One for the Road

Director: Chris Cooke

U.K.| 2003. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 96 mins.

This cracking comedy from sparky British newcomer Chris Cooke has been developed from his 1999 short film Shifting Units. It had me giggling all the way through its 96 minutes—and beyond. A group of sheepish-looking guys are assembled at a community centre for some group counselling, enforced by the magistrates’ court because each has been banned from driving. As an image of male rage, impotence and futility, it could hardly be improved upon. This excellent cast, including Hywel Bennett and Rupert Procter, is taken on a deeply unedifying spiritual journey to nowhere, as they spend breaks from therapy getting hammered in the pub and nursing tragic delusions about their noisome lifestyles. One is a salesman, in the neurotic David Mamet mode; another is a preposterous minicab dispatcher, so lonely he likes to ride around with the driver. The action is transferred to a local wood where these embittered businessmen are forced into a game of cathartic paintball against a team of teenage car thieves. Eventually, their course over, they congregate at Bennett’s mansion for a little more boys-only R’n’R, only to find their spiritual bonding unravelling catastrophically. Those of us who pine for British movies with the wit and literate style of our best TV comedies can watch this and take heart. Writer-director Cooke is a man to watch.

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