When a pair of scrap metal merchants happen across a lump of weapons grade Uranium they find themselves swept-up in a wave of unsavoury, international types bidding and double dealing in the hopes of acquiring the titular Hot Potato.
Even during these times of British cinema barely making a dent on the international scene, due mainly to their locally familiar but unexportable content, generally of the social/urban realism or gangster variety, it’s a rare thing for a film to come along that doesn’t adhere to these uninspired pre-sets.
This is not to suggest that a film is bad just because it doesn’t strive to aim a little outside of the British box, but it’s difficult to understand why so many of these types of films are being made when, as suggested, they’re doing little more than sitting on the DVD shelves of British supermarkets.
It’s pleasant to see then that occasionally something a little different can find it’s way to the marketplace, even if it is as slight as an episode of the average soap opera.
Set in 1969, The Hot Potato relates the period well, with set, costume and pop-culture referencing details as good as can be hoped for from a film with relative budgetary restrictions, and channels a whimsy that harks back to such films of the time as The Italian Job, which makes it hard to dislike in any way. Unfortunately, there’s nothing about it that’s especially memorable either. It’s fun without really being funny, the dramatic beats lack conviction and the plot never truly grips.
The cast do a decent enough job, though, as with every other aspect of the film, never really becoming standout. It’s nice to see Ray Winstone in a role that doesn’t require him being the tough guy (though the DVD cover would have you believe otherwise). His gravely voice aside, the cheeky chappy persona kind of works for him. Other likable actors such as Colm Meanley (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Con Air) and Jack Huston (who you may know as the excellent, facially deformed Richard Harrow in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) round off the male cast admirably. The female cast members don’t fair so well, the two leading actresses being comparatively unpractised in the trade. Ray’s daughter, Lois, isn’t too bad, but when next to such seasoned veterans her inexperience is noticeable, but ex-pop star and WAG, Louise Redknapp, just seems uncomfortable in her role as Ray Winstone’s young and loyal wife.
There’s not much more to be said, The Hot Potato is entertaining but very, very slight. It should be applauded for separating itself from the crowd but perhaps would have been better suited as a TV mini-series or holiday special. You most certainly will be able to sit and watch it with your parents on a Sunday afternoon but it probably won’t be making an appearance on anyone’s favourite film list.
B- grade – for originality
C+ grade – for storytelling
B- grade – for visuals
C+ grade – for acting
Overall grade C+
The Hot Potato will be available on region 2 DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of Showbox Media’s Cine Britannia line from September 10th, 2012.