Monday, 26 January 2009

'Give Me Darts Or Give Me Death': Good Arrows

I always thought that buried deep inside ITV4, beneath the endless repeats of The Professionals and CCTV porn, was a decent channel trying to get out. If Good Arrows is a measure of their commissioning policy then I might just be proved right.

Irvine Welsh's directorial debut is a one-off satirical mockumentary set in Merthyr about a former Darts world champion and self-styled 'Beckham of Darts,' Andy 'The Arrows' Sampson.

After winning the title, Andy (Jonathan Owen) naive, ignorant, inarticulate but probably good-hearted, is tempted away from his manager and wife by the buxom 'Big Sheila' (Katy Brand). The story is told from the standpoint of Sebastian (Joe McKinney), a documentary maker who follows them around with a camera crew. Sampson has literally grown fat off his reputation and makes a living playing exhibition tournaments in empty working men's clubs while his spiteful, shell suited, racist wife spends money he doesn't have and goes off with other guys. Inevitably, disaster strikes and with echoes of real life former champion Andy Fordham, Sampson suffers a heart attack.

As the story unfolds however, it becomes less about the darts and more about social decay, drugs, exploitation and poverty. These are the sort of themes you'd associate with Welsh's work. Merthyr Tydfil provides an excellent backdrop for this and the film-makers do a reasonably good job of conveying the urban bleakness.

At first, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching That Peter Kay Thing. The characters have the same toe-curling ignorance that leaves you guffawing at their stupidity or watching them through a pillow depending on what you find funny. At other times you could be watching Shameless.

The performances of McKinney as the Louis Theroux wannabe Sebastian and Owen as Sampson are decent enough. Brian Hibbard's turn as Alwyn, the one-eyed stoner and Sampson's jilted ex-manager who deals in human effluence is superb.

It's Brand, however, who excels. She seems to revel in the role of the vile temptress 'Big Sheila'. This really is her vehicle and while not a great fan of her work she is clearly a very good comic actress who is capable of greatness.

While Good Arrows is perhaps a shade too derivative, the satirical dimension makes it a worthy piece, however at 90 minutes it doesn't have enough depth to justify its duration. Saying that, Welsh and co-writer Dean Cavanagh use the time to create an array of deliciously filthy characters and the dialogue measures up to the standard set by the writers. One word of warning though - the flashback to Sampson's world championship winning moment is atrocious, a measure no doubt of the film's meagre budget.

Good Arrows will be screened on Saturday 31st January at 11:00pm on ITV 4


Kevin 13 February 2009 at 20:53  

I have this on Sky + to watch. Looking forward to it.

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