Comedians from the United Kingdom have had a rough ride recently, with Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2, Simon Pegg in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and Ricky Gervais in Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying all failing to catch fire at the box office. But those gentlemen are all English. Perhaps these Irishmen will have better luck: Mark Doherty (who also wrote the screenplay) and Dylan Moran play actors and best friends suffering through an absurdly bad day in A Film With Me in It. Box office prospects are modest in limited release, but this pitch-black, sometimes hysterically funny comedy could easily become a cult item with right handling—on DVD at least, if not theatrically.
Mark (Doherty) is going through a rough patch. Roles have been few and far between; he’s a month behind on the rent and lying to his girlfriend, Sally (Amy Huberman), about it, even as his landlord, Jack (Keith Allen), threatens eviction. If that happens it will not just be Mark and Sally who are put out on the street but also his quadriplegic brother, David (David Doherty), who depends on Mark for his care. Mark's best mate, Pierce (Moran), does not have Mark's responsibilities and has never met a crisis that could not be quelled by a quick trip to the pub, but his acting career is going no better and like Mark he owes a fortune in back rent to Jack. What sustains them through this hellish season is their grand plan to breakthrough the logjams in their careers by writing a screenplay that they can star in, something they envision as a cross between Dog Day Afternoon, The Conversation and Fargo.
More apt inspirations for Doherty's script might be Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, the 1955 black comedy TheLadykillers (not be confused with the Coen Bros. execrable 2004 remake) and Shallow Grave (in which Allen played the ill-fated roommate). For as much as Mark and Pierce's lives are already a shambles, things can always get worse and they do in a crescendo of offhand mayhem in the space of a single evening. What begins as a single random accident snowballs. Mark's first bad decision is to call Pierce for help. Pierce's error is in taking the call. Together, they are a tag team wrecking crew. Everything they do only creates a bigger disaster. To say more would be to give too much away. "Farce. Nobody does that anymore." Pierce observes at one point in the midst of all the darkly funny shenanigans. Luckily, he is wrong on that point.
With an able assist from director Ian Fitzgibbon, Doherty has created quite a calling card for himself. The actor made his film debut in 1996 in Tom Hall and John Carney's November Afternoon, but like his character here he has not been able to gain much traction in films, also like his character he has devised his own solution to the problem. One presumes the autobiographical touches stop there and that he has never been involved in anything quite so extreme as this. A Film With Me In It serves to introduce him as bright, gifted talent on the scene. His chemistry with the dry-as-a-martini Moran (best known stateside for his self-penned sitcom Black Books and roles in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story and Run, Fat Boy, Run) in this outré buddy movie is magical. This is brilliant stuff.
Sales Agent: Cinetic Media
Cast: Mark Doherty, Dylan Moran, Amy Huberman, Keith Allen and David Doherty
Director: Ian Fitzgibbon
Screenwriter: Mark Doherty
Producers: Alan Moloney and Susan Mullen
Running time: 89 min.
Release date: January 1 NY