Three And Out Review
Paul Callow (Mackenzie Crook) is a tube driver who's having a string of bad luck. Entering a station, he fails to stop his train in time when a young man accidentally falls onto the tracks. A leave of absence of seven days is approved, as well as all the counselling he wants, leaving Paul to recover from the trauma at home. On his return to work, Paul hopes that he can put the accidental death behind him but, within days, tragedy strikes again. As Paul pulls into an overground station, a man suffers a heart attack and falls onto the tracks in front of Paul. Once again, he has no time to stop. That makes two in a month and when the laughter of his friends die down, Ash (Rhashan Stone) and Vic (Mark Benton) let Paul into a secret. Three strikes and you're out! Get three jumpers under your train within a month and London Underground will compulsorily retire the driver, complete with a lump sum equal to ten years wages.
Paul has always wanted out of London. At home on his computer, he escapes from the noise of the city - car alarms, the beeping of horns and the thump of music from the flat upstairs - by staring at a cottage on a remote Scottish island that is for sale, reasonably priced and not very much more expensive than ten years' wages. The temptation to kill a third person is too much. He visits a nursing home in search of someone who feels they've had quite long enough a life but is only struck by a walking stick for his enquiry. He visits a suicide chatroom. And hearing that Holborn Bridge is a popular spot for those jumping into the Thames, he waits on the bridge for anyone seen climbing over the barricades. It's there that he meets Thomas Cassidy (Colm Meaney). Paul saves him from jumping but offers him a deal...£1500 for a great weekend and to be standing on the train tracks at 10.06 on Monday morning when Paul returns to work. Cassidy agrees but first wants to settle his affairs. Paul wants to come with him.
In quite a number of ways, Three And Out bears a certain similarity to Driving Lessons, the coming-of-age British comedy in which Rupert Grint takes Julie Walters on a trip from London to Edinburgh and back. Here, it's Mackenzie Crook in place of Grint, Meaney in place of Walters and standing in for Grint's Anglicism, we have Meaney's Irish Catholicism. Crook is too old to star in a coming-of-age drama so, instead, Three And Out has Meaney teaching him something about life, taking him out of his London flat and into parties, a burglary and, in Coniston, his family home. Meaney is not welcomed back. Years before, prior to the drink and gambling taking hold, he walked out on his wife and daughter (Imelda Staunton and Gemma Arterton) without a word. Only now is he returning home but neither Paul nor Thomas want to explain why. In Thomas' eyes, "A deal is a deal!" and no matter what might happen in the weekend in Coniston, Cassidy will be there at 10.06 on Monday. The longer the weekend goes on, the less sure Paul is that this is what he wants.
There are laughs in Three And Out but they're rather gentle when compared to broad comedy or slapstick. A burglary, in which Cassidy and Paul, break into the home of an old acquaintance of Cassidy to take back a sapphire ring, goes badly wrong but not before they engineer a situation in which Maureen Callaghan (Annette Badland) believes that her husband has ejaculated over her face. There is also a good deal of comedy in the short appearance by Sir Anthony Sher, who plays a man who not only wants to commit suicide but who wants to be eaten, Bernd-Jurgen Brandes-like, in the process. Sher then pesters Crook throughout the rest of the film, leaving Crook screaming into the phone, "Listen! I don't want to eat you, neither your ear or your penis!" while waiting to buy a train ticket or Arterton taking a message in which Sher tells her that he would make great crackling.
The message of the film seems to be that life is only of value when it is lived. Paul wants to be a writer but Cassidy argues that whilst he may have talent, his failure as a novelist will be due to his not having lived. Perhaps due to his having nothing to lose - his liver is, in his words, shot and he has an unspecified but terminal illness - Cassidy teaches Paul to have some fun. More than that, Cassidy teaches him to care about somebody, while his wife makes him promise to look after Cassidy. That, though, runs counter to what Cassidy and he had agreed on and, as Cassidy reminds him, a deal is a deal.
The best scene in the film, though, is not any one of those mentioned. It comes on the Sunday night when Cassidy takes Paul to the flat upstairs, where the pair of them, cans in hand, join in the party. To The Pogues' If I Should Fall From Grace With God, they dance amidst the crowd and Paul learns how valuable life is. What happens in the end? Well, you'll have to watch Three And Out for that. It may not be a great film but it is a good one and you could do very much worse if you have a hankering for a funny and heart-warming British comedy.
The surprise with Three And Out is that it's presented in 2.35:1. Not that there's anything wrong with that but Three And Out feels like a movie that, while it might have enjoyed a run in the cinemas, only did so on its way to its natural home on television. Driving Lessons was much the same. A brief appearance in the cinemas and an even shorter time on DVD were both curtailed by a showing on television with a matter of weeks. Three And Out feels little different. There may be a longer period between this DVD release and its first terrestrial showing but few would have been surprised if it had premiered on television. Although it doesn't look at all bad at 2.35:1, 16:9 would have been a more natural fit.
Otherwise, though, it looks good. Befitting a recent film, the print is in faultless shape. There isn't a single blemish anywhere in the film. This is reflected in a sharp picture, bright colours and little problems in the way of the encoding. There's the odd moment that could have been better, such as Crook and Arterton's fumblings in her room but, even then, the look of the film suits what's happening. And, anyway, when Meaney gives chase over some stunning countryside, Three And Out makes up for it.
Contender have included two audio tracks on this release, a DD5.1 surround track and (again hinting at television being the natural home for this film) one in DD2.0 stereo. There's not a great deal between them. This film makes its points in dialogue not in action and while the rear speakers are used for ambience, mostly in London but occasionally in Coniston, it's the front speakers that get used most. That said, though, it sounds fine, particularly the songs, all of which are very well chosen, not only The Pogues but also The Undertones and, most apt of all, Elvis Costello And The Attractions' Accidents Will Happen that plays as Paul Callow mows down two London commuters. Finally, the film is subtitled in English.
There's a good spread of bonus features on the disc. The main one is a Making Of (25m41s) that interviews the main cast and crew about their thoughts on the film, the making of the movie and how it mixes the matters of comedy, tragedy and death. This is followed by a set of ten Deleted Scenes, which are presented without the same amount of polish as the main feature, add to what's already in the film with new lines and situations, which actually makes certain scenes much funnier, but includes little that would have made any real difference to the film. Each scene lasts somewhere between twenty seconds and two minutes. Otherwise, Three And Out includes two Trailers (1m57 and 2m16s), a set of Alternate Credits (2m49s), which is really just a compilation of clips from the film and a very full set of Cast & Crew Biographies.