Every British film that's funnier than an autopsy is hailed as the best British comedy since Four Weddings. Here's another. This time, however, it's for real. Scripted by Stefan Schwartz and Richard Holmes, Shooting Fish is a lively, frequently hilarious romp which juggles farce, character comedy and romance in a beguiling blend.
Computer nerd Jez (Townsend) and fast-talking Yank Dylan (Futterman, last seen in The Birdcage) work heists in and around London, from loft insulation rip-offs at 50 quid a pop or computer scams for five figure scores. Their aim is to live free - they've only lavished 2,337 on themselves in three years. Jez and Dylan will try anything - disposable nappies, inflatable mannequins, free tickets for the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical (Dogs) complete with rows of Japanese tourists... The two of them drift along, until Charlie (Beckinsale), appears, and they both become besotted.
Much of the appeal comes from the relationship between the characters - Futterman is everyone's nightmare smart-ass Yank; Townsend is the anorak; and Beckinsale is absolutely enchanting.
The script crackles with superb one-liners, and there's wry observation aplenty, like the shrine to Burt Bacharach and Jez's revenge break-in to alter the video timer from Blind Date to Channel 4's Dispatches. If there is a fault it comes after a hilarious prison sequence, when the plot spins briefly out of control.
Shooting Fish is a comedy about people. The budget would just about cover the cod-pieces on Batman And Robin. But on its own, and in its own way, it's as refreshing and amusing as any film ever made about fish.