An engaging look at the twists and turns of friendship when one of a laddish group decides to settle down, “The Jolly Boys’ Last Stand” reps an imaginative debut by writer-director Christopher Payne that has slim commercial possibilities but consistently transcends its puny budget. Cleanly and brightly shot on Digibeta, it’s also proof that the burgeoning trend in Europe of lensing features on video need not necessarily be an excuse for self-indulgence or ragged tech work, in the right hands.
Spider (Andy Serkis), self-styled head of a bunch of overgrown boys dedicated to drinking and larking around, decides finally to embrace some adult responsibilities by proposing to Annie (Rebecca Craig) and even thinking about trying to earn a promotion at work. He asks fellow “Jolly Boy” Des (Milo Twomey), a confirmed bachelor, to be his best man, and as a wedding present Des decides to make a vid about the group.
When another Jolly Boy, Vinnie (Sacha Baron Cohen), announces he’s leaving the club to settle down with Tina (Jo Martin), the other members panic, worried that their group is now doomed to extinction. Gradually, Des’ wedding vid turns into the movie the audience is watching, and expands into a portrait of the whole group and the tensions between them. Vid shoot starts to intrude on their lives and shape developments.
It’s a clever idea — with a neat final twist — that becomes progressively engaging as the amiable slackers grapple with commitment. Thanks to very confidant playing by the whole cast (especially Twomey and Craig), pitched at a slightly supra-natural level, the underlying comedy never becomes too obvious or knowing.
Unlike many DV-originated pics, this one is cut like a real movie, with no indulgences simply because of the cheap tech format. Shot in 1998, pic is getting a week’s run at London’s National Film Theatre, which started Aug. 18.