Also with: Leon Herbert, Vladek Sheybal, Derren Nesbitt.
Veteran Brit pratfall comic Norman Wisdom makes an ill-advised return to the big screen in “Double X: The Name of the Game,” an inept low-budget suspenser about a safecracker on the run from his former mob employers. Reliable cast is double-crossed by a laughable script and clumsy helming. Result, which hardly cuts it even as a telepic, should expire fast.
A major B.O. draw in Blighty during the ’50s and early ’60s as a kind of home-grown Jerry Lewis, Wisdom last appeared in a movie some 20 years ago. His aging fan club will prefer to draw a veil over this belated attempt to play a straight dramatic role.
Pic is narrated by a former Chicago cop (William Katt) who’s vacationing in Scotland. In the coastal village of Portpatrick, he strikes up a friendship with the nervous Wisdom, who in a 40-minute flashback tells how he’s been on the run for three years from the Organization, fronted by a nitery owner (Bernard Hill) and run by an urbane boss (Simon Ward) with political aspirations.
Wisdom’s daughter (newcomer Chloe Annett) has been kidnapped by Hill and Ward , and his former lover (Gemma Craven) has betrayed him. As insurance, Wisdom has some hot documents stashed in a safe place.
An hour in, pic springs a major twist and veers off in another direction, with Katt trying to rescue Annett. Silly finale pulls a cheap “Sunset Boulevard”-like script stunt.
Wisdom, sadly miscast, is dramatically wobbly and looks uneasy throughout. Hill, as a comic psycho, seems out of place and Craven is wasted as a frump-turned-hardnosed-moll. Ward, looking like an overfed Christopher Walken, has fleeting moments as the org’s oily boss and Katt is solid as the Yank.
Helming by Shani S. Grewal, in his feature bow, is routine in action segs and ham-handed in dialogue sequences. Tech credits are passable, with interiors shot at Bray Studios.
Pic is the first feature made under the U.K. government’s Business Expansion Scheme giving tax breaks to small investors. Others are in the pipeline.