Like a Terry Gilliam nightmare (far too grubby and seedy to be a bona-fide dream sequence), Dangerous Parking is a surprisingly moving story of one man’s battle with his personal demons told in hyper-kinetic style by a director putting himself well and truly on the line. Howitt not only writes and directs, but also places himself in the lead role… which far from coming across as an unnecessary and pretentious exercise in excess, instead feels like the natural summit for this Great British film.
Noah Arkwright is a critically lauded independent filmmaker who masks his own self-doubts with copious amounts of drink and drugs. Spiralling out of control and yet able to focus on his two non-substance based passions (women and filmmaking) it is only a matter of time before things come to a head. Persuaded to go to rehab by his reliable best friend Ray (Pertwee), Noah seemingly finds salvation in the arms of talented and beautiful musician Claire (Burrows). However years of excess soon catch up on Noah’s ageing body and its not long before his health declines. Is he able to approach the bad times with the same verve as he approached life in his prime?
The fractured nature of the storytelling (especially early on) gives us an insight into Noah's own mental state. These scenes brim with energy and Howitt does wonderfully as on screen performer and helmsman in conveying this way of life. The snide and brilliant observations come thick and fast. Particular standouts are his take on Americans' (lack of) sense of humour and the self-serving media world in which he lives. The films brief foray into relationship drama is quickly usurped by a grinding gear change that brings the film to a dramatic conclusion.
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel, Dangerous Parking is a lively and effecting cinematic experience. Tom Conti’s hilarious turn as a patronising doctor (is there another sort?) is one of those memorable performances that sum up the tone and direction of the film in microcosm. Painfully funny, superbly realised and cringe-worthy (in a good way), this is a film that deals with the absurdities of life and death with an equal shrug of the shoulders.
The second half of the film is far from easy to sit through, putting the viewer through the wringer as much as it does its star, but this makes for a powerful and long-lasting conclusion. Not too short of being perfect.
• Dangerous Parking at IMDb