"Don't Get Me Started" is a neat idea on paper that doesn't survive its journey to the screen. Feature bow by British commercials and rockvid director Arthur Ellis about a hitman's unsuccessful attempts to turn over a new leaf in suburbia too often plays like a half-hour short stretched to feature length. Theatrical chances loom equally unsuccessful.

“Don’t Get Me Started” is a neat idea on paper that doesn’t survive its journey to the screen. Feature bow by British commercials and rockvid director Arthur Ellis about a hitman’s unsuccessful attempts to turn over a new leaf in suburbia too often plays like a half-hour short stretched to feature length. Theatrical chances loom equally unsuccessful.

The U.K.-German co-production, with locations in Cologne and Dusseldorf reasonably doubling for London, has had a troubled passage to the screen. Following a disastrous preem in the Cannes market in May ’93 in a 98-minute version under the title “Psychotherapy,” pic was hastily withdrawn and re-cut, with additional shooting patched in (supervised by Paul Cowan and Martin Walsh). New version debuted in the Critics’ Week at this fall’s Venice festival.

At 76 minutes, the movie is a much tighter piece of work, more focused, and benefits from better sound mixing and being relieved of its original deafening score. However, it’s still a cute idea that hasn’t been fully realized as a feature film.

British TV thesp Trevor Eve plays Jack, who’s moved to the U.K. and just started a new marriage and a new job as an insurance salesman. Also, it’s almost a year since he quit smoking, and the strain is almost unbearable whenever friends or colleagues light up.

Jack’s desire to quit the leaf and become a “perfect” member of middle-class society slowly emerges as a metaphor for something much darker. Tracked down by investigative journalist Jerry (Steven Waddington), he’s exposed as Michael Grillo/Peter Neill, a hit man who may also have murdered his first wife. Jack’s scarcely bottled psychosis, which has already led to him killing a work colleague, is put to the ultimate test.

Eve is excellent as the enigmatic Jack, suggesting murky currents lying just below the surface of a buttoned-down personality. Beyond that, though, the pic flounders around with a host of stereotyped supports who add little to the story. Overall tone is also shaky, flirting with both film noir and black comedy but settling down with neither.

Technically, pic is OK but has a low-budget look.

Don't Get Me Started

(BRITISH-GERMAN)

Production

A British Film Institute release (U.K.) of a BFI/TiMe Medienvertreibs presentation of a Skyline production, in association with Frankfurter Filmproduktion (Frankfurt), with participation of Channel 4 (London), Filmstiftung NRW (Dusseldorf) and Martest Film (Cologne). (International sales: BFI, London.) Produced by Steve Clark-Hall. Executive producers, Ben Gibson, Wolfram Tichy. Co-producer (Germany), Michael Smeaton. Executive in charge of production, Angela Topping. Directed, written by Arthur Ellis. Additional shooting and post-production, Paul Cowan, Martin Walsh.

Crew

Camera (color), Gil Taylor; editor, Mike Bradsell; music, Roger Bolton; production design, Caroline Amies; art direction, Knuth Loewe; costume design, Peri De Braganca; sound (Dolby), George Richards; fight arranger, Bill Weston; assistant director, Gary White; associate producer, Beate Balser; casting, Marilyn Johnstone. Reviewed at MGM Trocadero 7, London, Oct. 13, 1994. (In London Film Festival; also in Venice Festival -- Critics' Week.) Running time: 76 MIN.

With

Jack Lane ... Trevor Eve Jerry Hoff ... Steven Waddington Gill Lane ... Marion Bailey Larry Swift ... Ralph Brown Pauline Lewis ... Marcia Warren Barry Lewis ... Alan David Joe Kean ... Patrick O'Connell Alice Kay ... Lorna Heilbron
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