The Hot PotatoReviews
Fans of Winstone may wish to give it a go, but the rest are better off sitting down with a jacket potato and watching one of the classic Britflicks the film tries so hard to be.
Sorry folks, but 'The Hot Potato' isn't the feature film adaptation of the Smash ads from the 80s that we've all been waiting for. And sadly nor is it the rollicking crime caper it wants you to think it is.
Early on 'The Hot Potato' shows promise, as its tone and setting reminds you of the kind of a film that would have crept out of Ealing Studios in the Fifties; something that would have had John Le Mesurier pop up for a quick cameo as a disgruntled bank clerk. Cockney metal merchant Kenny (Ray Winstone) is “tryin' to raaan a legit business 'ere!” when co-worker Danny (Jack Huston) comes to him with a chunk of spud-shaped uranium that he's taken from an explosion-damaged MoD facility. Realising that the radiation is going to turn their testicles to silly putty, they attempt to sell the 'hot potato' on the black market.
What follows is a jaunt across the continent that involves Doppel-gangsters, CIA agents, and avuncular but duplicitous Germans. Soon, however, any charm is worn away by lacklustre plotting and the sort of 'you can't trust Johnny Foreigner' mentality that would have Jeremy Clarkson slapping his jeans and nodding, but which these days leaves everyone else cold.
Hot Potato's main problem is that, much like its protagonists and their uranium, it feels like it doesn't know what to do with what it's got. Though Kenny and co. rattle around Europe in a red Jaguar so beautiful it deserves its own name in the credits, the plot never seems to travel with them, and if there were any jokes they were accidentally left behind when they got the boat to Calais.
Unusually for a self-described 'crime caper' featuring guns and gangsters it doesn't have the nervous energy that you'd expect. It feels cosy, harmless; lacking the twin elements of danger and comedy that are required, and which there's plenty of room for in the conceit. Deals to sell the uranium constantly fall through and 'twin' gangsters (played by John Lynch) breathe down their necks but there's no peril to drive us forward. It's just two people trying to sell a block of metal, with all the tension of your average episode of 'Cash in the Attic'.
If you're a Ray Winstone fan (and who doesn't love a man with a pie named after him?) then once again Hollywood's most reliable cockney won't disappoint you, but his daughter Lois Winstone feels underused in her role as secretary Carol. Constantly aggravated, Carol is a character placed in the film seemingly only to lean and pout against a variety of scenery. She does get given a gun later on, presumably only to give her hands something else to do other than remain glued to her hips.
In its promotion 'The Hot Potato' has unwisely drawn parallels to 'The Italian Job' and 'The Pink Panther' but it shares absolutely nothing with those classics other than a keen eye for Sixties aesthetics. If it's a comedy it's not funny enough. If it's a crime caper it's not perilous enough. Fans of Winstone may wish to give it a go, but the rest are better off sitting down with a jacket potato and watching one of the classic Britflicks the film tries so hard to be.
The Hot Potato is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Video on Demand now.