When parole officer Simon is framed for murder, the only way he can clear his name is to steal evidence from a bank - with help from a trio of ex-cons he put on the straight and narrow.
The problem with the best of TV's comic creations is that the people behind them can often find it hard to break free from the character everybody knows and loves. While the likes of Harry Enfield (Kevin And Perry Go Large) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G In Da House) chose to simply transfer their alter egos from small screen to big, Steve Coogan, aka Alan Partridge, has opted for something completely different. That said, fans of the sports casual-clad talk show host will spot a decent helping of Partridge in Coogan's parole officer, Simon Garden, with his familiar voice and a script (co-penned with Paul Calf writing partner, Henry Normal) that chucks in more than its fair share of Alan-isms. For fans, it's a transformation which offers just enough familiar material to keep them happy.
Far from relying totally on the Partridge, however, Coogan demonstrates depth above and beyond his TV grotesques - the character stays the right side of annoying, offering pathos as well as broad physical comedy - and proves that he really can act.
That said, The Parole Officer is more than just a showcase for Coogan's obvious talents. Puri, and fellow comic Ben Miller (of Armstrong And Miller fame) are very appealing and there's nice support from the female contingent, notably Emma Williams as the teen who gets mixed up with the inept bank robbing quartet, and Headey as the cop love interest.
Meanwhile, director Duigan, the Aussie behind Sirens and Flirting, keeps the comedy coming without ever allowing things to spin out of control, and creates some superbly constructed set-pieces - from some fantastically inappropriate crisp-eating to a rollercoaster sequence that should be avoided by those with a delicate disposition.
Combining the best elements of home-grown rom-coms and gangster capers, this breathes fresh life into both genres, emerging as one of the most entertaining Britflicks youÆre likely to see all year.