Parole Officer, The : Movie Review

Steve Coogan has invented many characters and is considered by some to be the funniest man on British television, but can he make a successful transition to the big screen as many comedians before have tried before… and failed.

Well, judging by his debut film he could well be on the way to capturing a whole new audience and certainly pleasing his existing fans. Coogan plays Simon Garden, a not so brilliant parole officer with only three successful re-habilitations out of a thousand cases to his name. Simon is subsequently brought before the board to defend his job and is offered a transfer to Manchester, he has no choice but to accept.

Immediately after arriving in his new city he witnesses a crime in which young a joyrider, Kirsty (Emma Williams), is tearing around the streets of Manchester in a stolen Porsche. Kirsty loses control of the car, crashes and corrupt copper DI Burton (Stephen Dillane) plants some drugs from the car on the unconscious Kirsty. The young tearaway, is taken to Simon in an attempt to reform her. He believes her story that she knows nothing about the drugs and goes in pursuit of the truth which leads him to a regular haunt of the bent coppers, Heavens Gate, a seedy club where Simon, who is hiding behind boxes of crisps witnesses DI Burton strangle to death his accountant. The incident is captured on surveillance tape and it then becomes Simon's mission to retrieve the videotape from a bank vault with the aid of his three successfully reformed convicts.

All the characters in the team are brilliantly acted and likeable in their own way. Colin (Ben Miller) plays an easily stressed computer expert who has plenty of differences of opinion with former bigamist George (Om Puri), and Jeff (Steven Waddington) is the instantly likeable half-wit in the gang. Fans of Coogan's character Alan Partridge will see similarities in mannerisms and subtle humor, which is by no means a bad thing, it's a refreshing change to see a film that hasn't been filled with predictable jokes and scenario's. The funny predicaments that Simon finds himself in are as sure to make you wince as they are to make you laugh, and although maybe not to everyone's taste, most people I'm sure will be intrigued by the twisting storyline and clever ending. It's not all subtle comedy though and one of the most memorable moments is after Simon has sampled one of George's curries and then soon after goes on the worlds biggest roller coaster much to the horror of the vomit covered thrill seekers in the seats behind him.

The leading female role is well played by Lena Headey who provides the love interest for Simon as Emma, a police officer who wants justice nearly as much as she wants to see the arrogant DI Burton exposed as the crook he really is. The well thought out plot keeps the film moving at a good pace and keeps the audience captivated. On the down side, the character of Simon Garden isn't as brilliant as some of his other creations, but then Coogan and co writer Henry Normal had a lot to live up to.

Given the basic outline of the film it could have ended up like countless others, but with a bit of comic geniuses behind it were kept guessing right up to the end. A thoroughly enjoyable film that leaves us wondering what comes next, maybe one of his other characters will make it onto the big screen, Alan Partridge in a Hollywood blockbuster, Ah-Ha now there's an idea…

With thanks to the Warner Village Cinema at
Clifton Moor Centre, York.

Author : John Harbisher Of