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The Actors
cast: Michael Caine, Dylan Moran, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, and Lena Headey

writer and director: Conor McPherson
92 minutes (15) 2002 widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental
Also available to rent on video

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Tom Matic
In this likeable comedy that can't decide if its black or romantic, Black Books' Dylan Moran plays Tom, a downtrodden bit part actor in a Dublin repertory theatre. Michael Caine is oddly cast as Anthony O'Malley, the egotistical lead actor in the company, playing a goose-stepping Gloucester, in a 'Nazi era' version of Richard III that cruelly parodies Ian McKellen's highly regarded stage and screen production. As the film goes on, the performances of this play go from silly to farcical, but this is only a small part of the film. In the dressing room, O'Malley persuades Tom to take the leading role (literally) in a scam that becomes increasingly complicated and messy. It involves Tom impersonating a London gangster to whom reformed crook Barreller (Michael Gambon) owes money, but has never encountered in person. At first, Tom refuses - until he accidentally burns his flat out.
   For me, the main selling point of The Actors is Dylan Moran: the film is undoubtedly a vehicle for a more good-natured version of his ruffled Bernard Black persona, as well as the variety of disguise roles he has to adopt to keep the scam going. While Moran may play second fiddle to Caine in the rep theatre scenes, he manages to upstage the veteran star - at one point literally, as Tom narrowly meets his cue by falling onto the stage through the rafters. However, that's part of the joke played by the film: though he is a mere spear-carrier in Richard III, when called upon to act his way out of a tricky situation, Tom proves to be the better actor.
   Moran certainly proves his worth as a comic actor, and many of the set pieces are highly amusing. But The Actors would be a lot funnier if the gangster elements were stronger. In a comedy thriller, the level of jeopardy involved should intensify the humour of the situation. In The Actors, the threat of death or serious injury presented by the gangsters is perhaps laughed off a little too much. Poking fun at luvvies' vanity is a nice comic notion, particularly using arch-thespians like Michael Gambon and Miranda Richardson in bit parts. But the idea of Tom eclipsing O'Malley as an actor is undermined by the implausibility of Barreller's gorgeous daughter Dolores (Lena Headey) falling for the East End gangster he poses as, with his milk bottle lenses, physical awkwardness and stilted cockney accent.
   It's interesting that Moran played a supporting role in Notting Hill, because he's now been promoted to romantic male lead in what is essentially an Irish version of that sort of lightweight Richard Curtis rom-com, but without their slushy smugness. However, if I have to watch anything from that genre, I'd much rather watch this than some sappy Hugh Grant vehicle.

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