Starring: Bob Hoskins, Calum MacNab, Emily Atack
Director: Sacha Bennett
Running Time: 101 mins
Outside Bet is a British film about a group of friends who, after losing their jobs in the midst of the turbulent 1980s, buy a racehorse in the hope that they will win back enough money to safeguard them in good time.
This is a film with a whole host of enjoyable performances, as well as slick directing, but it’s not actually that compelling a watch. Featuring very poor humour and dialogue throughout, an extremely repetitive and predictable plot as well as a lack of the powerful emotion that it aims to bring about, you might not have the most fascinating time watching this movie.
Before we get into that, however, let’s look at the positives. Firstly, the performances are pretty entertaining. Bob Hoskins stars in a smaller role that is beneath his abilities, however what really makes it work here is that you can see he’s having fun. The character development may be very weak and not that interesting, but you can get a good bit of popcorn enjoyment out of this film if you feed off of the performances.
Along with Hoskins, Calum MacNab stars in the main role, whilst newcomer Emily Atack plays the barmaid friend who has an topsy-turvy relationship with MacNab’s character. Again, neither of them really set the world on fire here, but they do put in a good show that helps in the more light-hearted parts of the story, even if their potential isn’t realised when the film turns more dramatic.
A final positive here is the directing. Normally, in these small British productions, good directing can go flying out of the window due to a low budget or an inexperienced director. However, Sacha Bennett, a relatively well-versed director, makes this film look beautiful. The bright colours and contrasts really pop in every scene, and that makes it a much more pleasant movie to sit through than if it were a bit more drab-looking.
However, there is a huge problem with this film that prevents it from being an actually interesting watch: the screenplay. The story is all about a group of old friends living life to the full in the face of adversity, and in that, it reminded me quite a lot of another Bob Hoskins film: ‘Last Orders‘, which is a massively underrated and fantastically moving drama.
But what this film fails to do to match something like Last Orders is convey any powerful emotion that would make you care about the characters’ fates if they didn’t win back the money on the horse. The whole story about them losing their jobs is glossed over way too much, meaning that you’ve got no strong evidence for why these guys are doing everything they do, and that just leaves the story as a bit of a one-dimensional slog, that just doesn’t pull you in as much as you need or want it to.
Finally, the dialogue in this film is also hugely disappointing. Despite the decent performances, the actors can’t mend the poor dialogue, which consists of painfully poor attempts at comedy, including one incredibly frustrating running joke which features an old man saying ‘I did/had/was [insert whatever here]once’ on loop throughout. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however, and there’s next to nothing to really laugh at and be properly entertained by, whilst nothing anybody says is actually as powerful or interesting as it needs to be, so that’s why, overall, Outside Bet gets a 6.4 from me.