Three and Out Review

Certainly not the first film to wring comedy out of suicide, Three and Out starts promisingly - perpetual sadsack London tube driver and occasional writer Paul Callow (Mackenzie Crook, best known to US audiences as Ragetti from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) has racked up a dual accident count on the tracks in under a month. The distraught Paul is then enlightened by his co-workers to the “three and out” rule - that is, hitting three people in a month opens doors to a payload that would finally let Paul leave his cramped, book-ridden London flat. Paul sets off on a brief montage scored to Blondie’s “One Way Or Another” to find a willing soul to lay his life down on the tracks - and so it goes, in this obvious comedy that unsuspectingly drops in out-of-place moments of pensive drama and ends with a late third act twist that rings stomach-churningly false.

Paul finds a willing suicide risk in Tommy Cassidy (Colm Meaney), a homeless man whose bridge jumping attempt is foiled by Paul. Tommy seems reluctant to trust our stick-figure thin, consistently nervous and rather unlikable main character, but 1,500 quid is on the table, so the two men strike up a deal: Tommy gets to go home and try to make good with the family as long as he’s on the tracks come Monday morning. This means visiting estranged wife Rosemary (Imelda Staunton) and rebellious daughter Frankie (Gemma Arterton). If you get the feeling this is a quality cast, prepare to watch the actors emote with skill in the face of increasingly schizophrenic circumstances.

Arguably the biggest problem with Three and Out is its incongruousness when it comes to maintaining a reasonably consistent tone. The screenplay by Steve Lewis and Tony Owen wants to tell at least three sizable stories: the transformation of the protagonist from inactive observer to active and functioning adult; the family drama that reunites a mother and daughter with a scumbag husband and absentee father; and most regrettably, a wasted opportunity in telling the already compelling tale of a deal made between two men that must end with one of them dead. The concept behind this film is already sturdy enough that in the hands of a more focused screenplay could have lent itself to a personal story, one that would have eschewed much of broader comedy that plagues this film, but rewarded the viewer with an examination of two genuinely compelling personalities. Crook and especially Meaney seem to be up to the task, so its especially unpleasant to see their efforts wasted on warmed-over physical hijinks that are seemingly supposed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the drama, which in the third act borders on hysteria.

It’s certainly not all a waste of time; as I said earlier, the performances are solid and easily rise above the level of the material. There’s nothing juvenile about the tender and angry meeting between Tommy and Rosemary and the screenplay smartly avoids more predictable moments between the two older, more experienced long-ago lovers. Tommy’s daughter Frankie is also given some minor dimension and Arterton works her snarky charm and natural beauty to make her more than just a standby crier. Crook is a gifted comedic actor but one that needs someone to play off of and cannot carry the film on his own; his metamorphosis is hollow and emotionally unearned, though not for lack of trying. Finally, what is most surprising for a film that aims for major appeal is the profanity-ridden dialogue. I’m no censor and most of it is quite befitting of the characters, but it feels out of place when the film plays its sappier routines.

DVD Bonus Features

The extras for Three and Out feature a trailer that does a terrible job selling the film as a dark comedy suitable for most ages, a 25-minute making-of featurette that amazingly manages to stretch out a talking heads set of interviews into an in-depth discussion of character motivations that should have been made clear in the film. Also included are 10 minutes of deleted scenes, most of them adding a new line here and there, and most adding nothing to the film.

"Three and Out" is on sale November 9, 2010 and is rated R. Comedy, Drama, Romance. Directed by Jonathan Gershfield. Written by Steve Lewis, Tony Owen. Starring Colm Meaney, Gemma Arterton, Imelda Staunton, Mackenzie Crook.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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