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Slab Boys Review

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★★★★★

When John Byrne's rites-of-passage styled play The Slab Boys opened off-Broadway in 1983, the three main pimply youths were played by those well-known Scottish actors Val Kilmer, Kevin Bacon and Sean Penn. Some of their charisma would have helped with his disappointing adaptation for the screen.

Set in 1957, the Slab Boys are teenagers mixing paint for the designers in a Paisley carpet factory. Phil McCann (Laing, with a gravity-defying quiff) knows there's more to life than mixing hues and aspires to go to art school. Spanky (Barr) dreams of America, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. And Hector (Bill Gardiner) is the short-sighted nerd. They all lust after Lucille (Berry) and look forward to the firm's annual dance.

There is a weary familiarity to the material, and none of the characters really ring true. Because of that you don't much care what happens to them. What is fundamentally lacking in The Slab Boys is the gritty humour Byrne brought to TV's Tutti Frutti. Those ageing rockers, The Majestics, remain his greatest creation, and some of their spiky camaraderie would have been welcome here.

On the plus side, there's a lively soundtrack (courtesy of every Scottish rock star still alive) and an appealing look to the film - Byrne claims he was aiming for the same sense of unreality Michael Powell captured in Black Narcissus. However, the story's overwhelming predictability, entirely lacking Byrne's trademark deftness, leaves the boys on the slab.

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