A jet-black comedy about a grief-stricken British widower who wants to die and an Eastern European everyman who can't quite accommodate him, "Shut Up and Shoot Me" is tentative yet entertaining proof that Euro-made, English-lingo genre pics, when decently written and astutely cast, can work.

A jet-black comedy about a grief-stricken British widower who wants to die and an Eastern European everyman who can’t quite accommodate him, “Shut Up and Shoot Me” is tentative yet entertaining proof that Euro-made, English-lingo genre pics, when decently written and astutely cast, can work. This Czech variation on “Fargo”-ish deadpan merits moderate fest attention, with some international theatrical play feasible prior to tube and disc playoff.

On vacation in Prague with his pretty wife Maggie (Klara Low), tubby British fussbudget Colin Frampton (Andy Nyman) is devastated when, during a stroll around town, Maggie is crushed, Monty Python-like, by a statue. The driver assigned by Colin’s hotel to take him to the morgue is Pavel Zeman (Karel Roden), a seething bundle of resentment hen-pecked by shopaholic wife Liba (Anna Geislerova) into working odd jobs to finance her dreams.

With no one to help him and nowhere to turn, the timid Brit, clutching the urn with his beloved’s remains, begs the cash-strapped Czech to kill him, offering a large sum of money. When Colin naively whips out his plastic, Pavel realizes this job won’t be easy.

Soon the body count is rising — but none of them belong to the persnickety tourist. Through a series of coincidences, the Mutt and Jeff duo become enmeshed in the violent doings of oversized, monosyllabic hoodlum Karel Karlovic (Robert Polo).

Things finally come to a comically violent head via a Rube Goldberg-like denouement in the Zeman flat involving the principals and such unlikely props as a plate of poisoned dumplings and Karlovic’s pint-sized dog (Jackie).

Though not as rat-a-tat as this type of comedy demands, script from debuting helmer Steen Agro, an Anglo-Danish-Italian adman-theater director now living in Prague, comments shrewdly on the determinedly practical Czech character via the plot’s bleaker aspects. Explaining why Liba is in the car with them, Zeman tells Colin “first we will take her to the beauty shop, then we will kill you.”

Agro’s ace in the hole, however, is the instant and palpable chemistry between the heretofore little-known Nyman and Czech industry vet Roden, best known in the West for his heavy turns in “15 Minutes” and “The Bourne Supremacy.” They ain’t Lemmon and Matthau, but their spot-on timing is on par with, say, the interplay between Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in “Midnight Run.” “Zelary” star Geislerova vamps her way through a thinly written character.

Tech credits are pro.

Shut Up and Shoot Me

U.K. - Czech Republic

Production

A Hollywood Classic Entertainment release (in the Czech Republic) of a Hollywood Classic Entertainment, Continental Film presentation of a Storitel (U.K.), UFO Pictures (Czech Republic) production, in association with Peligroso Prods. (International sales: Moviehouse Entertainment, London.) Produced by Paul Sherwood. Co-producers, David Rauch, Jeffrey Brown. Directed, written by Steen Agro.

Crew

Camera (color), Howard J. Smith; editor, Michal Lansky; music, Frank Gough; art director, Roman Chochola; costume designer, Zuzana Brozova; sound (Dolby Digital), Lukas Moudry. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Australia, April 19, 2006. (In Finale Pilzen Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 86 MIN. (English, Czech dialogue.)

With

Pavel Zeman - Karel Roden Colin Frampton - Andy Nyman Liba Zeman - Anna Geislerova Robert Polo - Karel Karlovic Maggie Frampton - Klara Low Veronica - Denisa Knoblochov Receptionist - Petr Vanek Old Lady - Frantiska Jandova Bibi - Jackie Upstairs Neighbor - Matej Ruppert
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