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Fast Food

There's a definite talent behind the camera in the gonzo comedy "Fast Food," but first-time writer-director Stewart Sugg needs to shake himself free of genre mimicry if he's to fully develop his own, still nascent style. Parts of this British low-budgeter have an offbeat poetry that's very winning, but, when the guns come out and crime elements take over, pic jettisons most of the goodwill it had going for it. Result is more of a calling card for better things to come than a distributable item.

With:
Benny ..... Douglas Henshall Letitia/Claudia ..... Emily Woof Dwayne ..... Miles Anderson Jacko ..... Gerard Butler Bisto ..... Danny Midwinter Flea ..... Stephen Lord

There’s a definite talent behind the camera in the gonzo comedy “Fast Food,” but first-time writer-director Stewart Sugg needs to shake himself free of genre mimicry if he’s to fully develop his own, still nascent style. Parts of this British low-budgeter have an offbeat poetry that’s very winning, but, when the guns come out and crime elements take over, pic jettisons most of the goodwill it had going for it. Result is more of a calling card for better things to come than a distributable item.

Heart of the film is Benny (spacey Douglas Henshall), who returns after a long absence to the city where he grew up and finds everything changed. As he and his dorky pals bemoan the loss of cultural markers like Princess Diana and green-colored packets of potato chips, Benny looks and feels as out-of-place in contempo London as his proto-Elvis haircut.

In the movie’s strongest and most original segments, he strikes up an electronic friendship with phone-sex specialist Letitia (up-and-comer Emily Woof , from “The Woodlanders”), whom he eventually tracks down and discovers is his childhood sweetheart Claudia, daughter of the local cornershop owner. Their reunion, however, is shattered when Benny’s penniless buddies decide to rob a stash hidden in the shop by a local gangster (Miles Anderson), with increasingly dark and violent results.

The brain-dead repartee between Benny and his friends is very uneven, though the humor will occasionally hit the mark for local auds. Pic is at its best when the two leads, Henshall and Woof, are together: Their charmingly quirky relationship is not only shot in a completely different style from the rest of the movie — dreamy and almost experimental in its free-floating camera style — but also encapsulates most of the points (lost opportunities, changing times) that the script is about.

The petite Woof moves easily among a variety of moods and shows a gift for kooky comedy. As Benny, Henshall is less animated but gives the pic a solid center. Technical contributions are above par for this kind of fare, with an orchestral score that’s effective in creating mood when the guns aren’t popping.

Fast Food

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A Twin Pictures/Fast Food Films production. (International sales: Vine Intl. Pictures, London.) Produced by Phil Hunt. Executive producers, Tessa Gibbs, Stewart Sugg. Directed, written by Stewart Sugg.

Crew: Camera (color), Simon Reeves; editor, Jeremy Gibbs; music, Ben Lee-Delisle; production designer, Katie Franklyn-Thompson; costume designer, Clara Apollo; sound designer, Mike Prestwood Smith; sound, Nick Stoker; assistant director, David Broder; casting, Lucy Boulting. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 17, 1998. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Benny ..... Douglas Henshall Letitia/Claudia ..... Emily Woof Dwayne ..... Miles Anderson Jacko ..... Gerard Butler Bisto ..... Danny Midwinter Flea ..... Stephen LordWith: Robert Donovan, David Yip, Graham Turner, Sean Hughes.

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