Blighty’s mid-1980s battles between publishers and print unions provide the unlikely backdrop for “Outside Bet,” a strained caper about a bunch of south London pals who pool their resources to buy a racehorse. Neither especially funny nor dramatic, and a bad fit for festival play, theatrical exhibition and export, this low-budget ensembler looks likely to end up at the glue factory. Cast names may ensure a few local ancillary parlays.Mark “Bax” Baxter (Calum MacNab) has followed his now-cancer-stricken father (Phil Davis) into a typesetting job for Global News (a thinly disguised stand-in for Rupert Murdoch’s News Intl.). With redundancy looming, he inspires his friends and colleagues — notably barmaid/love interest Katie (Emily Atack), perennial sidekick Mickey (Jason Maza), mod-culture aficionado Sam (a randomly cast Adam Deacon) and union rep Smudge (Bob Hoskins) — to invest their dreams and savings in racetrack glory. Mild comedy, generic inspirational dialogue and a jukebox of 1980s pop hits (“Vienna,” “Don’t You Want Me”) ensue, but the repeated missteps amid road apples are a poor substitute for actual wit, and surprises are negligible. Tech contributions are adequate.
A Universal/the Works release of a Bob and Co. presentation of a Talent Films, Gateway Films production in association with Northcroft Films. (International sales: Genesis Film Sales, London.) Produced by Carolyn Bennett, Tony Humphreys, Terry Stone. Executive producers, Bob Benton, Nick Simunek, Lord Kirkham, Tony Jimenez, Kevin Cash, Mike Diamond, Ajay Parkash, Chris Howard, Ata Shobeiry, Marianne Kingham, Terry Byrne, Graeme Muir, Alistair Cook, Martin Hughes, Janet Lorimer Bate. Co-producer, Jane Hooks. Directed by Sacha Bennett. Screenplay, Nigel Smith, inspired by the novel "The Mumper" by Mark Baxter, Paolo Hewitt.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD) Nic Lawson; editor, Kate Evans; music, Jason Kaye, Greg Hatwell; production designer, Matthew Button; art director, Daniela Faggio; set decorators, Clare Keyte, Alice Norris; costume designer, Hayley Nebauer. Reviewed at Soho Screening Rooms, London, April 24, 2012. Running time: 101 MIN.
Calum MacNab, Emily Atack, Bob Hoskins, Phil Davis, Jenny Agutter, Adam Deacon, Terry Stone, Jason Maza, Dudley Sutton, Perry Benson, Vincent Regan, Kate Magowan, Montserrat Lombard, Rita Tushingham, Linda Robson, Mark Cooper-Harris, Lucy Drive, Rebecca Walsh.