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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • None
  • 3 Teaser trailer
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (Rental)
Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 100 mins . M15+ . PAL


This little tale begins in the city of Glasgow, where Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) awakens in a drunken state to see his foster sister Carol (Kathy Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Burke) and her husband Charlie (Ricky Tomlinson) on a daytime chat show. Getting his attention, he is even more surprised to see his ex-wife Shirley (Shirley Henderson) appearing with their daughter Marlene (Finn Atkins). Shirley’s current boyfriend, Dek (Rhys Ifans), uses the show to propose to her and when she turns him down, embarrassing him greatly, Jimmy sees this as a sign that he should return to Nottingham and win her back. Jimmy needs some cash first though so he goes with his Glaswegian mates on an armed robbery. During a bungle, Jimmy takes the cash from the robbery and leaves his accomplices to deal with the advancing police. He heads off to Nottingham to start a new life with the family he left behind years earlier.

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The gang appear on telly!

Dek may be heartbroken from Shirley’s refusal to say yes, but he is not about to stand by and let Jimmy walk in and take his family away, despite him being a bit of a wimp. Shirley is torn between her past love for Jimmy, the small time hood who still excites her and Dek, the wimp with a heart of gold who loves her more than life itself and is also keen to be a father to Marlene. Who will Shirley choose? Will Dek hang around long enough to find out?

Set in working class Nottingham, this is a story about real people and real relationships. There is no glitz and glamour from Hollywood here, this is the East Midlands of England complete with bingo, dance halls, shell suits and family nights in front of the telly. The language is common, the accents varied and the lifestyle repetitive. This is a good portrayal of working class England.

This is quite an enjoyable little film. It is promoted as a spaghetti western set in the Midlands of England and there are occasions where there are Clint Eastwood style moments, but generally the western theme is not that evident. The storyline is typically English with the characters being more important than the actual story and these characters are terrific. Robert Carlyle as Jimmy is the star name here and he does play a major role in the film, but the real stand out is Rhys Ifans as Dek, playing the Welsh idiot perfectly. The whole supporting cast is well suited, but special mention must go to the abrasive Kathy Burke and the impressive youngster Finn Atkins. Both of these actors have moments in the film where they really dominate.


The picture is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. There is little to find fault with here as this transfer delivers this film well. The dank feel of England comes across well as do the indoor shots, capturing every little detail down to the peeling wallpaper. There is no major problem with grain, aliaising or film artefacts and colour quality is accurate. The only gripe here is the lack of subtitles, as some of the accents are strong and along with some mumbling it can be a struggle to understand at times.

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It't the Tartan Army!

Sadly the only audio option is a Dolby Digital stereo mix. This does the job fine, however a surround mix would have been much better suited. Being a dialogue-driven film, the front sound stage delivers the sound clearly at all times and viewers may struggle with accents, but this is not a fault of the transfer. Supporting music is well suited and is also well delivered here. Really there is no great need for a surround mix but, as always, it still would have been nice.

Being a rental release there was no expectation for any extras and this expectation was realised, well apart from some teaser trailers that is. These are for the films Anita and Me, I Capture the Castle and Swimming Upstream.

Overall this is an enjoyable film that will make you laugh a few times. It has some dramatic moments, but the comedy moments are more prominent. The bumbling Scottish thugs in their variety of inappropriate stolen vehicles are a good laugh in particular. The story is nothing too original, but the setting and acting make this an enjoyable little comedy/drama. The picture transfer is very good and the audio is sufficient, albeit a mere stereo mix. The extras are minimal but will hopefully be increased with the retail release.

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  •   And I quote...
    "Set in the Midlands of England, this very British comedy/drama has its moments."
    - Adrian Turvey
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