Tuesday 1 January 2008

The Parole Officer (2001) John Duigan

Steve Coogan plays Simon Garden, a parole officer annoying enough to warrant a petition from his co-workers to have him moved elsewhere and inept enough that only 3 of the 1000+ released prisoners he's responsible for have gone straight. He shifts north to Manchester where I recognise most of the scenery and quickly stumbles upon corrupt cops stealing drugs from teenage carjackers and even committing a murder. The only way out for him to avoid being framed for the murder himself is to retrieve the closed circuit security tapes of the incident which have been locked up in a bank vault. Now he must enlist his three successes to help him rob the bank.

There's a lot of unconventional humour here, but somehow Steve Coogan manages to make us laugh while we're cringing. You'll see Coogan vomit on a troop of schoolkids from the front seat of a rollercoaster, break the large wooden penis off of a fertility symbol in a museum exhibit and even have a wasp fly up his nose. You'll also see a young girl accomplice accidentally throw a dog over a fence into a greenhouse after fighting with it over a severed head. None of these should be funny in the slightest but they are indeed. Coogan's pause after the word 'buggered' in this film made me laugh louder than anything I can remember in quite some time, and he does things with a stapler that really resonate.

Coogan is by far the star of this show, but his assistants all have plenty moments of their own. They're as unconventional a mix as could be, including Om Puri as a serial Pakistani bigamist and Emma Williams as a teenage carjacker. There are also cameos from people of the calibre of Simon Pegg, Jenny Agutter and Omar Sharif. Some of the film is predictable and not all the jokes work but it's still a very pleasant change from the typical modern comedy.

It doesn't hurt that Emma Nichols is a Halifax girl and the filming locations included Saddleworth Moor where I've taken photos of some of the very things that I saw on screen. It's always good to recognise locations in films and TV shows, but it's special to know them when they're really not well known places that I've lived in or visited, especially when I'm not there any more.

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