Pete Postlethwaite paints pylons and cops off with Aussie backpacker Rachel Griffiths.
Fact: regardless of what anyone may claim, nobody saw the success of The Full Monty coming. Indeed, when screened to the fourth estate, only a few registered large enthusiasm and no one predicted record-breaking international business. So when approaching another British comedy drama, also featuring homegrown talent and coloured with a dour tinge by the pen of TFM scripter Beaufoy, a certain wariness is inevitable. But if this manages the snowball popularity of the Sheffield strippers, the Empire team will dance naked in Trafalgar Square.
Forever struggling to maintain a sunny disposition in the face of inclement conditions both meteorological and financial, Ray (Postlethwaite) and his misfit team of "handy" men accept a lunatic gig slapping gallons of Dulux One Coat on five miles of electricity pylons before the juice goes back on at the end of August. Grubby days of banter, hard graft and hanging precariously at 100 feet are considerably enlivened by the arrival of antipodean backpacker Gerry (Griffiths), a game sort willing to muck in, earn a few quid and begin a salty fling with Ray while flirting with the feckless Steven (Thornton), Ray's youthful best mate.
And so a few saucy shenanigans unfold - one startlingly involving Postlethwaite and Griffiths in the buff - played with reasonable conviction against the backdrop of severe landscape and the inconsistent comic relief of Ray's bodge-it-and-scarper merchants. There's surprising weakness in the writing, however, with a plot striving for fearless relationship reality but regularly turning at standard, dramatic signposts, and the lead trio frequently let down by poor dialogue.
Postlethwaite, rightly, is something of an actorly institution now, and his ability to remain believable in all circumstances is possibly the movie's saving grace. Whether you need to see him running around in a torrential downpour with his knackers rattling about is another matter entirely.