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Shooting Fish (1997)

The Entrepreneurs

As con artists they were hard to beat. But they were easy targets for LOVE.

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 109 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: 12


With its up-beat, idealistic representation of British humour, and soundtrack packed to the rafters with Brit-pop fad-bands (Space, The Wannadies and The Bluetones?!), ‘Shooting Fish’ couldn’t be any more mid-90s if it walked with a ridiculous swagger and proclaimed itself officially “mad for it”.

It stars Dan Futterman and Stuart Townsend as Dylan and Jez, a Yank and a Brit brought together in a remarkably sunny and colourful part of the UK. Both are orphans, and both struggle to find work despite possessing reasonable intelligence (Dylan’s dyslexic and Jez has got a degree in some useless subject or other) – reason enough, if would seem, for the pair to strike up a close friendship and become partners-in-crime. In a nutshell, they’re scam artists, and this is a film about their scams – with the minor side issue of a love interest thrown in, in the shape of a virtually-unrecognisable Kate Beckinsale.

Take away Townsend’s horrendous Gallagher Brothers haircut and Futterman’s slick American poise, and it’s basically selling the same brand of cheeky-chappyness we’ve seen done a hundred times before (and better) in series after series of ‘Only Fools and Horses’. The trouble is, the comedy side of things here rarely produces a chuckle and, although the characters are likable enough, they’re just not particularly interesting.

Another problem with the film is that it constantly straddles the boundary between reality and nonsense – of course there’s nothing wrong with being rooted on either side, but there’s always a nagging feeling that the film should at least make up its mind. As it happens we’re left with a plot more uneven than Townsend’s fringe, with ridiculous coincidences and contrivances popping up at every turn and various extra characters being introduced willy-nilly with little reason or explanation.

There’s nothing too terrible about ‘Shooting Fish’. The acting’s fine, it doesn’t last too long, and that soundtrack is guaranteed to take you right back to the days when it was considered socially acceptable to have an anorak and a shit barnet. But if you’re expecting anything more from it than the killing of a bit of time, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

It's Got: A trip to see ‘Dogs: The Musical’.

It Needs: To be considerably funnier.

DVD Extras A featurette, some actor’s soundbites (which seem strangely like they’ve been ripped from the featurette), some extra behind-the-scenes footage, and a piece on actor’s research which finally provides concrete proof that petty crime is both big AND clever. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10


An instantly forgettable experience.