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A pair of con artists share a dream of owning a stately home. They run a series of scams to persuade the rich and greedy to hand over vast amounts of cash. While in prison they discover that their hidden cache of 50 pound notes are about to cease being legal tender, enter an aristocratic medical student ...
I'm all for charming rogues, and Shooting Fish has one of the most delightful pair I have seen in a while. Jez (Stuart Townsend) and Dylan (Dan Futterman) are filled with verve and imagination, but they both have such good hearts and vulnerability that they could never be true scoundrels.
Dylan and Jez have a strong friendship borne of similar histories (they are both orphans), needs, insecurities and goals. They are more like brothers, looking out for one another. There are small spats and rivalries, and though Georgie (Kate Beckinsale), the woman who gets involved in one of their scams, causes some friction, she never seriously threatens their relationship. They live in an old gas silo which they have remodelled - and it reminded me of the kind of funky, cool, 'secret home' I would day dream about as a kid - and they find innovative and not necessarily honest ways of rarely having to spend a cent. The money they make from all their schemes is put aside for a special project.
For all their scamming, the audience is firmly on their side. You know that what they're doing is wrong, but they are so free of malevolence that you want them to get away with it. They target the 'big fish' but never take advantage of the poor and vulnerable ('thin fish').
Most of their scams are fronted by Dylan, who has charm and a slick tongue, with the geekier Jez taking care of the technical side of things. Georgie is the typist they hire who cheerfully assists them, although she's aware of how dodgy they really are.
The story initially focuses on their lifestyle and schemes to raise money for their project. Georgie's presence gives them someone to help them out of jams, though she is absent when one of their scams falls in a heap with dire consequences. Georgie has troubles of her own which don't become clear until much later in the film, but once revealed it leads to a delightful reverse sting on Jez and Dylan.
'Shooting Fish' is not a realistic film - it verges on magic realism and their world tends to be a bit simplistic at times. One major crisis point revolves around a problem which would never actually occur in the real world. The key is that the characters are so well defined - the heroes so charming and the villains so deserving of punishment - that you are more than willing to immerse yourself in the fantasy and accept the way their worlds works.
I'm told that 'Shooting Fish' is outstripping 'The Full Monty's performance last year. Funny, touching, light-hearted and imaginative, I don't find that hard to believe.
|Reviewed by Narrelle Harris.|
|Just the facts:
Title: Shooting Fish (199)
|The Players: Kate Beckinsale||Official website|
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 20-May-1998 Last updated: Last tested: 3-Jul-2014 Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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