Saturday, 23 July 2016

Number One (1985)

Number One is a film I used to watch this one all the time back in the day, in my early twenties. It's a real lads film, a post pub fave with a plethora of talent both in front of the screen and off.

Written by GF Newman and directed by Mike Leigh's schoolfriend Les Blair - the team that gave you Law and Order and The Nation's Health - Number One was, like those mini-series, originally commissioned as a TV movie but it actually found its way to the cinemas instead. Focusing on the world of sport and clearly influenced by Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, Newman's tale concerns an Irish rogue adrift in London and scratching a living playing snooker in dingy clubs and halls and the odd bit of action on the wrong side of the law who turns pro, impressing the audiences with his colourful performance style.

Bob Geldof stars as the lead character Harry 'Flash' Gordon who eyes a chance out of his troubles with both the underworld and the law when he's spotted by local bookmaker Billy Evans (Mel Smith) and his whispering minder Mike The Throat (who reveals his vocal problems stem from receiving a blow from a hammer to his throat during a fight) played by PH Moriarty. They think they've got the next big thing and a nice little earner, but Flash's unkempt and untameable nature - breaking and throwing cues around, turning up late, needling his opponents - creates headaches in the professional sporting arena, as does the constant threat of two bent cops who are after nicking Flash played by Alfred Molina and James 'A Clockwork Orange' Marcus.

Cheap and cheerful working class London movie which blends sport with petty crime and has the courage to point out the illegalities in the game itself, Number One boasts an impressive supporting cast including both Alison Steadman as Geldof's prostitute love interest and Kate Hardie as his schoolgirl love interest! Then there's Ian Dury as a local stick up man, David Howey as the established snooker rival, Phil Daniels as a boxing promoter, Ray Winstone as one of lads down the boozer and Alun Armstrong as a Blackpool Bobby.  Add to that we have cameos from the likes of the great snooker commentator Ted Lowe and referee John Williams whilst Joe Fagin and Dave Mackay of Auf Wiedersehen Pet soundtrack fame provides the toe-tapping score.

Lovely jubbly.

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