The film-within-a-film premise of Just for the Record is an interesting one and on paper the cast are strong. Though the main characters are little more than archetypes, some of the more experienced players have obvious fun with their limited roles. The bone dry, straight-to-camera, delivery of Billy Murray as boozing thesp Wilson Barnes being a particular highlight. Just for the Record’s ‘visionary’ director Harlan Noble is another treat –Black and Blue collaborator Roland Manookian is a born entertainer and has a light comic touch which lends interest to his one-dimensional character. There is pathos in his enthusiasm for his past work (in the Ninja Shark arena) that provides one of the films few really genuine funny moments before tedium and distaste kick in. Though he is, as yet, a face rather than a name, he has already accumulated a serious body of work and has a bright and promising future ahead if he gambles and breaks cover from the gangster stable.
By way of contrast Just for the Record features a star appearance from DVD-shifting powerhouse Danny Dyer, in a surprising turn as sleazy producer Derek La Farge. His schmoozing, smooth talking patter intended to offer hilarious contrast to his usual brand of “awright treacle” Ray Winstone charm. The problem: Ray Winstone can parody his caricature and play against type because he is a talented actor who understands nuance. Danny Dyer ought to play to his strengths – or play to the terraces – until he has mastered his art. His performance seems almost to be an in-joke with someone just off camera and, after an initial chuckle at the terrible accent, the joke wears wafer thin fast. Interestingly the DVD cover bears little resemblance to the original poster and is pitched directly at his target audience – the words ‘action‘ and ‘cut‘ writ large in no nonsense caps. Man font!
Glimpses of the dry wit of writers Ben Shillito and Phillip Barron occasionally break the surface and a handful of lines raised a laugh from the sympathetic audience. Sadly their intelligence is lost in a surfeit of stereotype, poor production values and, curiously old-fashioned, one-note humour. Rik Mayall’s phoned in performance has such bad sound quality that, at times, it appears he has literally called in his lines from his Blackberry while Steven Berkoff is given little to do beside rant and swear in an armchair. Badly costumed and preposterously moustached, the disparity between the performances and occasional flares of good writing only serve to highlight the am-dram feel. One has the impression that first time director Steve Lawson had all the best intentions for this movie but lost them beneath a shoot which turned into a jolly for his mates.
Just for the Record didn’t do it for me but there is no denying that these companies shift films. One for the lads over a post-pub kebab, the film is available on DVD now from all good stockists.