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Swing Review

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After spending some time at Her Majesty's pleasure and being influenced and inspired by a fellow inmate, Martin (Hugo Speer) starts up a swing band and swings to win back his singing ex Joan (Stansfield).

★★★★★

Given that the last time Hugo Speer swung it was as possibly the least known of a gang of amateur Sheffield strippers (who somehow went on to take the world by storm), this lead role marks progress of sorts - even if the locale has only shifted some 70 miles west.

Banged up for attempting to withdraw building society funds that weren't actually his, Martin (Speer) has a sojourn at Her Majesty's pleasure taken in the company of sax-playing philosopher Jack (Clemons) who passes on worldly wisdom and, when Martin's parole comes up, his beloved instrument, along with the advice that Martin go forth and blow his own trumpet. Duly inspired, Martin forms a swing band, with footie-mad mate Buddy (Scott Williams), braindead National Front goon Oi (James Hicks) and a brass section of belligerent Orange Brigade members led by Mighty Mac (Sayle). And although now married to Martin's arresting officer, even ex-girlfriend Joan (Stansfield) is persuaded to come and croon.

And so ensues a round of resolve-stiffening setbacks and romantic endeavour, all couched in an unavoidably small screen atmosphere, which - incidentally - has nothing to do with the Liverpudlian setting, nor the presence of telly regulars like Brookie's Barry Grant (Paul Usher) as Martin's shifty brother. It's more that, while knowing what bases to hit, restrictions of time and budget (dare one suggest talent?) have left writer-director Mead unable to finesse the links between them, and the resultant episodic feel is very TV. Reinforcing this is the hit-and-miss comic relief: Sayle is in fine form, and Nerys Hughes has a delicious cameo as Joan's fiery-tongued Italian mother, but Dermot Kierney's Lottery-winning eccentric falls oddly flat.

While there's no sign of Hugo's spear on this outing, he's a watchably amiable lead. There's something agreeable - albeit entirely predictable - about his romance with Stansfield, but the debutante singer holds her own in reasonably untaxing circumstances.

There's a distinctly small-screen feel to the film, though Speer is amiable in the lead.