The Null Device


Costumed crimefighters seem to be the big thing in Britain these days: firstly there was the one in Tunbridge Wells, then Angle Grinder Man came along to defend London motorists from having to take responsibility, and now two chaps dressed as Batman and Robin are protecting the residents of Reading from muggers and football streakers.

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Tonight I watched a rented DVD of Once Upon A Time in the Midlands, a British comedy concerning a small-time crim/deadbeat dad (played by Robert "Begbie" Carlyle) journeying down from Glasgow to somewhere in the British Midlands (it wasn't said exactly which city or suburb; perhaps the Midlands are an endless homogeneous suburban sprawl these days?) to win back his ex-girlfriend (the very pretty Shirley Henderson, who played Tony Wilson's first wife in 24 Hour Party People) from her dull-but-dependable suburbanite partner (Welsh actor Rhys Ifans), all the while pursued by a crew of Scottish bampots in an assortment of bizarre stolen vehicles (milk floats and the like). The plot's the usual comedy/drama; though the setting surprised me. I always thought that the Midlands would be presented a bit grimy, down-at-heel and somewhat rough, yet with an authentic character from amidst the shabbiness. (Mind you, my experience of the Midlands extends to Wolverhampton railway station and glimpses of brutalist Birmingham through a dirty train window.) The Midlands in the film was an endless suburbia of double-glazed dream homes, spotless, brightly-lit bingo halls and shiny new sedan cars, populated by well-fed, complacent suburbanites in shellsuits. It all seemed rather soulless and deracinated and much like any other dormitory suburb of McWorld, save for the accents and street signs; change those and add a few barbecues and it could just as easily have been Rowville or Mount Waverley or someplace.

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