The Parole Officer (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/08/2001

3 out of 5 stars
Running time: 93 mins

Well-made, frequently amusing comedy that succeeds thanks to a superb supporting cast and a solid performance from Coogan.

Steve Coogan is best known for his magnificent comic creation, TV ‘personality’ Alan Partridge. Fortunately, his character in The Parole Officer contains just enough of Partridge in him to keep fans happy, while at the same time staying just the right side of likeable so that we want him to succeed.

Coogan plays probation officer Simon Garden (the title of the movie has been shamelessly Americanised). As the film opens he gets transferred to Manchester because all his colleagues hate him.

However, it becomes clear that however annoying Garden might be, he also has a strong sense of justice and a good heart.

Whilst working on the case of a teenage tearaway (Emma Williams as ‘Kirsty’, perhaps the best character in the film), he accidentally witnesses corrupt detective D.I. Burton (Stephen Dillane) strangling an accountant.

And when some spectacularly inopportune snacking gives him away, he finds himself framed by the police for the time-honoured ‘murder he didn’t commit’.

As such, he realises that the only way to clear his name is to break into a bank and steal a CCTV video, so he sets about recruiting the only three criminals he ever managed to turn straight (Om Puri, Ben Miller, Stephen Waddington), back into a life of crime in order to help him out.

Where The Parole Officer scores highly is in its wide variety of gags, even if some of them, inevitably, fall flat.

There are some neat one-liners, some pratfalls, some great sight-gags, some delightful ‘Partridge Moments’ and a couple of top-class ‘toilet’ gags for good measure, the best of which has Garden feigning diarrhoea to avoid arrest.

The cast is excellent, particularly Puri, Waddington and Williams, who all make the most of their characters, and Coogan proves that he really can act. Dillane makes a suitably nasty villain and there’s even a surprise cameo appearance that provides one of the film’s best surprises.

The only disappointment is Lena Headey, who, despite being fantastically sexy (she’s given both a nude scene and a ‘dressed as a prostitute’ scene), smirks her way through the entire film, even at the most inappropriate moments.

Also, you never really understand why she falls for Garden, and as a result, they share what is perhaps the least convincing screen kiss ever filmed.

That said, the film moves along nicely and provides several laughs along the way, ultimately coming across as a satisfying blend of old-fashioned Ealing Comedy, The Italian Job and various other caper-flicks, with a bunch of ‘gross-out’ gags thrown in for good measure (and bigger box office).

A perfectly adequate Saturday night movie.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 13:19

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