Last Orders

Last Orders


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If you ignore the star-studded cast and forget that the film is based on Graham Swift's Booker-Prize-winning novel, what do you have? The patchy life stories of four old blokes from South London. It doesn't set the Thames on fire.

With the use of flashbacks and alternative actors, playing younger versions of the central quartet, the tapestry of time stretches a long way back. As a result, characterisation and incident appear thin.

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Life is never simple and there is no such thing as ordinary. As the film progresses, you learn more about these friends, who have met regularly at The Coach & Horses since VE Day - how a marriage collapses, how a daughter emigrates and another stays permanently in a mental institution, how a love affair starts and how £1000 on a nag will prove fatal, how a boy discovers that his dad is not his dad and what happened in the hop fields of Kent during a happy-go-lovely summer before the war.

Jack (Michael Caine) is the life and soul of the party, the one who can't help flirting with the girls. He's a butcher by trade and when he dies, he states in his will that he wants his ashes tossed into the sea off Margate pier.

Ray (Bob Hoskins), Vic (Tom Courtenay) and Lenny (David Hemmings) meet at the pub with the urn, waiting for Vince (Ray Winstone), Jack's boy, to arrive with the motor. Vince always preferred the insides of engines to the insides of dead animals and so went into the more lucrative secondhand car business. When he turns up, immaculate in a camel hair coat, he's at the wheel of a brand new Merc.

You cannot ignore the star-studded cast, because that is the movie's selling point. Helen Mirren, as Amy, Jack's wife, gives the most memorable performance. A close second comes Winstone, who conveys a weight of emotional baggage with a fleeting expression.

Vic is an undertaker and Courtenay plays him with dignity. Lenny is an ex-boxer, who drinks too much, and Hemmings captures the obnoxious characteristics of an alcoholic enthusiastically. Caine is so much at home with Jack, he'll brew you a cuppa - or get Amy to, more like - while he talks and Hoskins, in what is essentially the leading role, brings to Ray a touching sensitivity.

If the story lacks bite, the performances are never less than affectionate.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2002
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The reminiscences of four London geezers.
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Director: Fred Schepisi

Writer: Fred Schepisi, based on the novel by Graham Swift

Starring: Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Ray Winstone, JJ Feild, Cameron Fitch, Nolan Hemmings, Anatol Yusef, Kelly Reilly

Year: 2001

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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