Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Mike Bassett : England Manager



UK 2001
director : Steve Barron
script : J N R Smith, Rob Sprackling
cinematography : Mike Eley
editing : Colin Green
music : Antony Genn, Duncan Mackay & Mark Neary
lead actors : Ricky Tomlinson, Martin Bashir, Bradley Walsh, Amanda Redman
89 minutes

Now established as a UK national treasure, Ricky Tomlinson remains unknown elsewhere as his rare movie work tends to be too unexportably British in tone. Mike Bassett is a classic case of the latter, with Tomlinson as a second-rate coach who flukes his way into the England hotseat and then his team into the World Cup. Non-Brits may pick up on a few of the jokes, and audiences worldwide will appreciate cameos from Pele and Ronaldo, though what Ulrich (Festen) Thomsen is doing among this crowd is anybodys guess.

But you really need to follow British culture in general and football in particular – to know whats going on. The whole thing only makes sense if you’ve Channel 4s legendary hatchet-job on ex-England boss Graham (Do I not like that) Taylor, to which Basett adheres closely without ever matching the excruciating hilarity of the original. And how quickly times have changed in the Ikea-bright Sven Goran Eriksson era, most of Bassetts targets suddenly seem quaintly dated, even if the Swedes arrival on the scene is acknowledged in a couple of wry asides.

Theres an undeniable novelty value in seeing cathode-ray favourites Gabby (Yorath) Logan, Barry Venison, popsters Atomic Kitten and Panorama journalist Martin Bashir up on the big screen, especially since Bashir gets almost as many lines and close-ups as Tomlinson himself. But these familiar faces just end up emphasising how much this is essentially telly fare: amusing enough, and as visually inventive as youd expect from the director of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – but still several leagues short of the movieland Premiership.

3rd October, 2001
(seen Oct-2-01, UGC Boldon, Sunderland)

by Neil Young