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UK 1971
Directed by
Stephen Frears
88 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Stephen Frears’ first feature film is the kind of film which will appeal to some and irritate others for pretty much the same reasons. Albert Finney plays Eddie Ginley, a Liverpudlian who works as a bingo-caller at a low rent nightclub but who aspires to be a big-time comedian and fantasises about a Sam Spade-like lifestyle as a private dick or “gumshoe”. Seeking adventure, he advertises his services in the local paper and so gets involved in some Dashiel Hammet-like goings on.

Writer:Neville Smith's script is an impressively clever mixture of pulp fiction crime yarn and wise-cracking spoofery. Although engaging in an off-beat way he film fails to spark because the two aspects of the story never come together in a satsifying whole whole as it did for Woody Allen in Play It Again, Sam. Eddie the self-deprecating schlemiel with a penchant for imitating Bogart sails unperturbed through the supposedly real crime side of things which unfold with surprising ease (and an odd racist inflection), the humour being left to Eddie's wise-cracking dialogue and narration as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score.

Finney is effective in the lead and Frears' direction is characteristically efficient but one can’t help but feel that this could have been better if the Ginley character had been more developed and his relationship with any of the support characters allowed to be more than perfunctory. Eddie Ginley after all is NOT Sam Spade.

FYI: For a thematically similarly film, check out The Roly Poly Man, 1994




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