Friday, June 8, 2012

No Surrender (1985)

I found it to be a chore to sit through “No Surrender”. I waited patiently for the humor to pick up to no avail. I chuckled every once in awhile, but that’s all the comedy amounted to. Surprisingly, most of the chortles came during the beginning of the film. Considering this portion of the film is where the lulls reside most, it’s a depressing realization.

It’s not that the actors don’t try their hardest. Michael Angelis, Avis Bunnage, James Ellis, Tom Georgeson and Bernard Hill all put their hearts into their roles. Too bad their characters don’t have any souls. The only character in the film to have a personality is Billy McCracken, which is a plus for Ray McAnally. He was able to embed a hint of character and liven up the proceedings. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a lot of screen time.

The blame lies solely on the director, Peter Smith. He can’t decide if he wants the film to be kooky or dry. He labels the film as a dark comedy, but there’s nothing too offensive or bleak present. The swipes at Protestant’s and Catholics are weak and made me wince. Not because I was offended, but because of how lame and pathetic they were. I’ve heard children come up with better insults.

I guess a plot description would help. Admittedly, it’ll make the film sound interesting, as it shows promise. Two group of old-timers are accidentally booked for a New Year’s Eve party at the same bar on the same night. One group is filled with Protestants, the other Catholics. This starts a war of words (and occasional fists) between the two. The workers try to keep things under control by entertaining them with acts (such as musicians, comedians and a magician), but find they’re in way over their heads.

Notice how I didn’t make mention of who’s who in that description? That’s because nobody really matters. The characters exist solely to disperse insults and punch lines, most of which aren’t good. I can’t recall any of the actual dialogue making me laugh. It was mainly sight gags (such as a blind man beating up two teenagers) that slightly tickled my funny bone. Everything else got on my nerves.

Maybe if Peter Smith trusted his characters more to engage the audience, I would have found the humor to be funnier. If I had gotten behind them, maybe the words coming out of their mouths wouldn’t have seemed so benign. It would have certainly helped the strained dramatic elements of the film (such as the stereotypical romance between the new bar manager and one of the singers).

Then again, maybe a good script was in order. This was screenwriter Alan Bleasdale’s only full-length script to be written. He was known mostly for work on television series and mini-series, where an episodic approach works. In a film, there’s a certain flow to the jokes and dialogue. You also have to evolve characters much quicker and don’t have numerous episodes to iron out their rough edges.

Who knows what went wrong with “No Surrender”. Maybe the humor just went over my head. I’d like to believe so, as I do know this did get some critical acclaim. Even if that’s the case, I know for certain the shaky direction and (mostly) soulless characters didn’t go over my head. They were clearly present and a huge detriment to the film.

MVT: Ray McAnally as Billy McCracken. He was the only character in the film worthy of note.

Make or Break: The beginning of the party. This is where I thought the film was going to pick up. Unfortunately, it did not.

Final Score: 3.75/10

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