The controversy surrounding Three and Out — it makes light of suicide! It belittles Tube drivers! — has already been heavily publicised. Expect it to wither and die though now that the film's getting released because, actually, it does neither. What it does do is make you smile and think and chuckle considerably more than you probably expected: for the middle section anyway. Unfortunately the writer and director fall into the all-too-common trap of the moment —just how do you end a film? — while the slapstick grand guignol yuks — and yucks — of the opening suggest a completely different film altogether. It's essentially a decent piece of European cinema topped by the Addams Family - and ended with a late episode of Happy Days.
Paul Callow (Crook) is a downtrodden, depressed tube driver. He hates London, he hates his job. Happiness for him involves a small remote cottage in the wilds of Scotland and the chance to write novels. As the film opens, a chav gets caught in his pitbull's lead, falls under Paul's train and splat. Cue tomato sauce. A few days later, as Paul's pulling into a platform, a man has a heart attack, keels over and falls under Paul's train. More splatting, more vegetable-related special effects. This prompts two of Paul's colleagues Ash (Rhashan Stone) and Vic (Benton) to explain the little known London Underground rule: run over a third person within the month and that's it, end of contract, ten years money in one lump sum, which is a sum more than enough to buy a remote cottage in Scotland and try becoming a novelist.
With time running out and no sign of that desired chav or fat businessman, Paul decides to take the matter into his own hands, and sets out to find someone suicidal who would be prepared to jump under his train early next week. His search ends when he discovers Tommy Cassidy (Meaney). In return for a final blow-out weekend where Tommy can tie-up his life's many loose-ends, Tommy will happily jump before a Northern Line train. This is the point the film really kicks into life. Paul and Tommy travel to Liverpool and the Lake District to reconcile with Tommy's estranged wife Rosemary (Staunton, in heartbreaking form) and his daughter Frankie (Arterton). During the course of the weekend, Paul learns to live — ironically from someone who ballsed up his own existence Tommy finds the sense of worth he never anticipated he possessed and both find the sort of friendship that's eluded them in the past.
This intriguing centre section takes Three and Out into unexpected territory. The conversations between Tommy and Rosemary are supremely moving, and demonstrate a lightness of touch all too rare in British movies. They even get away with the predictable romance between Paul and Frankie, not least as it's undermined by Tommy's misplaced protective wrath. The main problem though is they don't know how to end proceedings. There are two points where the film could and should have finished: instead the makers opt for a literal “jumping the shark” moment which sprinkles the whole climax with sugar where the rest has been flavoured mostly with salt. Three and Out? More like close but no cigar.• Official Site
• Three and Out at IMDb