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At last, a sportsman the British can be proud of...  

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Blackball

Paul kaye plays Cliff Starkey, a sensational bowls (yes, bowls) player in this thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious comedy.

The film opens with a sequence switching between a filthy council estate in Torquay and an elitist Lawn Bowls club, setting the scene for the protagonists Cliff Starkey (Kaye) and Ray Speight (Cromwell).  Whilst Speight dispenses bowling advice to fellow club members with his patronising but gentle superiority, Starkey practices his art on the local fields, full of bumps and other nasty obstacles.

Starkey works as a decorator for his granddad and refuses to take his bowls skill to higher levels through reverse snobbery over entering the official club and the fact that the only people he considers his equals live and play in Australia.  Then his pal Trevor (Vegas) lets it be known that the Australian champions are coming to England in 4 weeks.

To play for England Starkey has to be County Champion and while he effortlessly beats Speight's 23 year run as champion, Speight's hurtful and childish comments as he reluctantly hands over the trophy later see Starkey stripped of the title and banned for 15 years from the sport for scrawling "Speight is a tosser" on club merchandise.

To further push Speight's temper over his neatly preened edge, Starkey trashes the tournament banquet in revenge and later falls in love with his daughter (Alice Evans).  But with the Australians' arrival looming closer, the two players' differences have to be put aside as they pair up to play the Aussies.

Paul Kaye plays his part with high-octane and ferocious energy, and contrasts well with Cromwell's stuffy character.  There is a wonderful performance from Vince Vaughan, perfectly cast as the hyperactive, manipulative and cruel agent Rick Schwartz, who sees dollar signs in Starkey's "bad boy" antics.

Alex Coe

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)