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A Deal Is a Deal

The title transaction in this British comedy — a crime that's carried out with about as much gusto as the reluctant murder swap in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train — involves a young London tube operator (Mackenzie Crook) and an all-around good-for-nothing (Colm Meany) who meet under chance circumstances. The driver, who's also an aspiring writer, has inadvertently run over two men at work and is in line for forced retirement (and a nice pension) if he hits another. Meany has decided to end his life and finds himself recruited by Crook, who offers him a lump sum for one last weekend in exchange for becoming his third and final "victim." Complications ensue, of course, as the two start out hating each other and end up friends. The thin, gimmicky premise is meant to be played for pitch-black comedy but comes off a murky gray, and matters aren't helped by the performances. Crook is so terminally hangdog that it's hard to muster much enthusiasm for his character, and the usually reliable Meany is reduced, presumably at the instruction of director Jonathan Gershfield, to fairly shameless mugging. Even the great Imelda Staunton is wasted in the thankless role of the wife Meany abandoned eight years earlier and tries to return to. The leads have scenes that should tug the heartstrings but end up grinding on the nerves. (Sunday, October 19, 6:45 p.m., Cinema Paradiso, 90 minutes.)


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