As far as I’m concerned, this single image sums up the latest British comedy Outside Bet.
Mark Baxter (played by Calum McNab) finds himself on a race-track, clutching an old leather bag that used to belong to his Dad. That bag had earlier contained all the money he could lay his hands on and he’s put every last penny into a bet that the horse he co-owns will win. This is a boy (not quite a man) who has put his heart and soul into one thing. He’s hanging on to a memory of his Dad and yet looking for a big win.
For the real Mark Baxter, writing The Mumper, the book on which this film is based, took his heart and soul and helped him hang on to his own memories of his Dad and the people he grew up with. Helped by the inimitable and inspirational music writer Paolo Hewitt, ‘Bax’ wrote about what he knew – real people doing unreal things but talking like people really talk down there.
“Paolo and I had written a successful book called The Fashion of Football: from Best to Beckham and when I started thinking about writing The Mumper, I asked him to help me again.”
Paolo remembers that phone call: “He rang me up and said ‘got this idea for a book about six geezers in south London who buy a racehorse. Fancy helping me out? Mark at the time worked full time and yet still found the time to write the book. To me that was very impressive. Plus, it was a great story with the best dialogue this side of White Hart Lane.”
Set in a very recognisable south London, the film takes the spirit of the book – the people, the clothes and the music of the 1980s – and converts it into something typically British in its screen humour. Set against a backdrop of the demise of the newspaper print industry and the management union battles, there’s space for comedy and tragedy. Director Sacha Bennett (Bonded by Blood and Tu£sday) shifts pace beautifully with the sadness of loss and the excitement of possibility. Threading throughout is the will they/won’t they romance between Max and Katie (Emily Atack, known to millions from cult TV show The Inbetweeners).
It’s the music, always the music
Despite all the visuals that make this a very watchable film that is British in the way that The Full Monty and Brassed Off are British, the thing that sells it for me is the music. It’s the soundtrack of the 80s – Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Style Council.
Mark again: ‘I managed to get Paul Weller involved and he supplied an unheard track called ‘No need to be alone’ for the film, which is the theme film tune and played over the opening credits.’
The only way to hear that Weller track is to go and see the film. Or buy it on DVD later if you can’t get to a cinema. There will always be other tracks from the 80s that could have been used and it would have been nice to have the real Frank Sinatra version of Pick Yourself Up, a recurring theme throughout the film. But you can’t have everything. You can have a lot, and this film does have a lot. Go see it. You know you want to.