Buster Review

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Retelling of the events leading up to, during and after the notorious Great Train Robbery, told solely from the perspective of petty thief Buster Edwards (Collins). He and his wife (Walters) sun it in Acapulco on the loot until she gets the urge to return to Blighty, where a mixed welcome awaits.


In 1963 Buster Edwards was a petty crook ducking and diving around the South London criminal fraternity and a natural choice to join the gang planning to rob the night train from Glasgow to London. He weighed in, did the business, took the money and ran to Acapulco.

The story of Buster’s involvement in what became known as The Great Train Robbery and his subsequent flight and arrest is faithfully retold here. Phil Collins plays Buster as a thief with a heart of gold, the sort of decent old stick who would strip your house while you showed him round but would be the first to call for the birch for sex offenders, murderers and real villains like that. The fact that train driver Jack Mills never recovered from a crack on the head inflicted by the Great Train Robbers led to the Royal boycott of the Buster premiere but is treated here as an unfortunate accident and quickly forgotten.

Julie Walters is Buster’s wife June, faithfully standing by her man through thick and thin, enjoying the good life in Acapulco and then insisting they return home because she misses her fish and chips and a good old knees-ups round the Joanna. Naturally, Buster is arrested not long after they return and is promptly banged up. Walters is one of Britain’s leading funny ladies but flounders here with a limp script. Collins, who provided the excellent soundtrack along with the Four Tops and others, is equally disappointing in his first major film role and goes so heavily on the cheeky chappie angle that it’s hard to believe the other members of the gang took him along as anything other than a lucky mascot.

The debate over whether or not the media’s near-deification of Buster Edwards, Ronnie Biggs and the rest of the Great Train Robbers is morally sound will no doubt run and run. This lightweight account adds little new colour to a familiar story and will appeal mainly to fans of Collins, Walters and Crimewatch.

A whimsical spin on a controversial event that captures the imagination at brief intervals, but offers nothing new to the great debate of jack-the-lad-hero vs. lowly thug of a crim.