This astringent, sardonically funny thriller is only the second theatrical feature for director Stephen Frears since Gumshoe (1971). Frears and writer Peter Prince have taken a potentially familiar tale of a gangland betrayal and revenge and made something richly inventive and most entertaining.
Pic opens in London in 1972 as Willie Parker (Terence Stamp) fingers his fellow criminals. Ten years later, Parker is living an apparently carefree existence in the Spanish countryside when four toughs kidnap him and hand him over to an experienced hit man, Braddock (John Hurt) and his novice sidekick, Myron (Tim Roth), to deliver him to the boss in Paris. It’s a journey on which things keep going wrong.
Most disconcerting for the hitmen is that Parker is so relaxed and philosophical about his fate. A stopoff at a secret apartment provides a further problem: the apartment is occupied by an Australian criminal, Harry (Bill Hunter) and his young Spanish mistress, Maggie (Laura del Sol). Maggie is taken along as hostage.
Acting is marvelous. Best of all is Roth as a cocky little hood, a bit puzzled as to what’s going on and wanting to assert himself a little.