Three and Out is a 2008 British black tragicomedy starring Mackenzie Crook (the pirate who’s always losing his eye in Pirates of the Caribbean, amongst other roles) and Colm Meaney most famous as Chief Miles O’Brien in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. As a massive trekkie, I’ve been a big fan of Meaney in Star Trek and he is the main reason I wanted to watch this film. I have never seen him in anything else and I was curious as to what he would be like. This is also the first film that I’ve decided to rewatch before reviewing. I really liked it the first time, but I felt to give it a fair review, I should rewatch it. Whether I’ll do this for other films is still yet to be seen.
Three and Out follows the story of Paul Callow, a London tube driver by day and a writer at night. Sick to death with the noise and fast-paced life of London, he’s desperate to get away to somewhere quieter, but lacks the necessary money. The answer to his prayers comes when after killing two people who fell under his train, his colleagues play a cruel prank on him saying that if he runs three people over with his train, TFL will pay him off with a lump sum of ten years wages, otherwise called “three and out.”
Paul falls for the prank and desperately tries to find a third person to run over, which is where Colm Meaney’s character: Tommy Cassidy comes in. Cassidy, a down-and-out low-life drunk with an estranged family and a terminal illness wants nothing more to die on his own terms. Paul strikes a deal with Cassidy. Paul says that if Cassidy is willing to throw himself under his train, then he’ll try his hardest to help Cassidy amend things with his estranged wife and daughter. Cassidy agrees, as long as Paul honours his half of the agreement.
Hmm. Where do I start? Firstly, the acting was brilliant all round. There were a number of different scenes that were incredibly emotional and extremely touching. Notable examples include Cassidy trying to make amends with his wife and daughter whom he abandoned eight years prior. Cassidy’s wife, Rosemary, played wonderfully by Imelda Staunton who acts with enough subtlety and grace to truly convince the audience that she is completely fed up with her husband’s rubbish and has no desire to reconcile with him. One of the most touching scenes is when Cassidy returns his wife’s wedding ring, which he had previously gambled away, and Staunton breaks down suitably. The ending of the film is absolutely heart-breaking as well.
Upon having to gotten to know Cassidy, Paul has second thoughts about the deal, yet Cassidy adamantly tells him to go through with it. He has nothing left to live for and wants to die on his own terms. This emotion is only exacerbated when Paul is finally told that “three and out” was just a prank. The entire suicide sequence is to be applauded; from the moment that Cassidy steps onto the tracks, to Paul screaming “no,” to the screen fading to red. Mackenzie Crook was brilliant in this sequence. He perfectly conveyed the distress and frustration that his character was feeling at the time. I got chills from the whole scene. Mark Benton and Rhashan Stone as Paul’s prankster colleagues were great as well.
Not only does the film work as a drama, but it is also incredibly funny. Of course, a film that engages with a subject as dark as suicide has to have some humour to stop it from becoming too morbid, but this film could leave audiences laughing for days. There is some great physical comedy, such as Cassidy chasing Paul around town after he has realised that the latter has slept with his daughter. The running gags are some of the of the funniest sections of ‘Three and Out.’ For example, in an attempt to find someone willing to kill themselves, Paul does everything he can think of to convince someone to throw themselves under his train, from asking an elderly man “who’s on his last legs” to considering volunteering for the Samaritans to going on suicide chatrooms and encountering Maurice, a Frenchman whose biggest dream is to be cooked and eaten by somebody else.
In his attempts to convince Paul to do just that, Maurice becomes one of the funniest running gags throughout the film. There are too many other examples of physical comedy to name all of them: from Cassidy trying to get his wedding ring back from a former workmate that involves the former falling through a window and the latter being accused of being a “dirty old bastard” by his wife, to Paul talking a little too loudly about wanting Cassidy to kill himself in a crowded pub.
Another plus for me is the setting. The last few films that I’ve reviewed have been set in America, and well…I’m not sure where Ice Age is set, but it was very refreshing to see the old familiar sights of London. As a native Londoner, I’m all too familiar with the tube, overcast weather and noise. We truly see Paul suffering from this endless noise in a small, but well-shot sequence of all of the noise that a busy city like London can produce.
I also loved the soundtrack for this film. Correct me if I’m wrong, but for the most part, it sounded like an original score and each piece of music fitted each scene perfectly.
When I originally watched this film, I thought it was awesome, but something was holding it back from being superlative. Upon a rewatch, I struggled to think what this something was and couldn’t come up with anything. Even now, I’m still struggling to come up with anything majorly bad within the film. Even Kerry Katona’s appearance wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, due to how brief it was.
This film is superlative. Brilliant acting all around, especially from Crook and Meaney, an original narrative, some great gags and few if any criticisms. Even Meaney’s appearance as a ghost at the film’s conclusion isn’t tacky or corny enough to bust this film down a rank or two.