Blackball Review

Image for Blackball

Cliff Starkey is a 'bad boy' with an unusual hobby: bowls. His dream is to play for England, but not if the Torquay Bowling Club can help it. Enter sports agent Rick Schwartz, and Britain's newest sporting celeb is born.


It can't have looked promising on paper: a British comedy about crown green bowling, featuring Bernard Cribbins and directed by Mel Smith. Happily, though, writer Tim Firth's other movie this month (alongside Calendar Girls) provides a fresh spin (ahem) on the timeless tale of unlikely sporting triumph.

This is thanks in no small part to Paul Kaye. Best known as TV's Dennis Pennis, he is effortlessly charismatic as Cliff Starkey, all mouth and swagger on the surface but also shouldering the biggest chip this side of Torquay Fish Bar.

It's a predictable story arc (bad lad makes good; bad lad gets too big for his boots; bad lad sees the error of his ways), but Firth's sly observations make for a far sharper, funnier screenplay than we might have expected. A strong supporting cast, including Johnny Vegas and, of all people, Vince Vaughn, add to the fun.

A quintessentially British concoction, but a charming one at that. Good performances and a witty script add up to an entertaining, if whimsical, film.