A desperate novelist blackmails his cocky tenpercenter into pursuing a publishing deal in the micro-budget two-hander, "The Agent." Despite token efforts by TV-trained helmer Lesley Manning to open up the drama, there's no dodging the fact that this is exactly what it looks like: an adaptation of a piece of reasonable but not gripping legit work (scripted by writer-producer Martin Wagner). Laser-fine marketing could lure bookish auds, but this British production will need to hustle hard to garner coin from a tiny domestic release in September.

A desperate novelist blackmails his cocky tenpercenter into pursuing a publishing deal in microbudget two-hander, “The Agent.” Despite token efforts by TV-trained helmer Lesley Manning to open up the drama, there’s no dodging the fact this is exactly what it looks like: an adaptation of a piece of reasonable but not gripping legit work (scripted by writer-producer Martin Wagner). Laser-fine marketing could lure bookish auds, but this British production will need to hustle hard-to-garner coin from a tiny domestic release in September.

Schlubby writer Stephen (Stephen Kennedy) meets with his agent Alex (William Beck) in London to discuss the final draft of his second novel. It’s clear Alex has barely read the book, but that doesn’t stop him from telling Stephen it isn’t commercial enough. However, Stephen blackmails Alex with some incriminating photographs to force him to sell the novel as if he believes in it. Protracted debates about literature vs. commerce aren’t smartly written enough to distract from basic plausibility issues, especially in the final reels. Lead thesps, who played parts on stage, are OK, if a bit broad for film. Tech credits are serviceable.

The Agent

U.K.

Production

A Pinter & Martin release of a Pinter & Martin presentation. Produced by Martin Wagner, Lesley Manning. Directed by Lesley Manning. Screenplay, Martin Wagner.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Jonathan Harvey; editor, Lesley Manning; music, Simon Lambros; production designer, Humphrey Jaeger. Reviewed on DVD, Hoveton, U.K., July 31, 2009. (Also in Dinard Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

With

William Beck, Stephen Kennedy, Maureen Lipman.
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