3.5 out of 10

Release Date: September 2012 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Tim Lewiston

Cast: Ray Winstone, Jack Huston, Lois Winstone, Colm Meaney, John Lynch, Derren Nesbitt, Maike Billitis with  Louise Redknapp and David Harewood

Writer: Tim Lewiston


This caper movie moves like it has uranium in it’s boots.  Set in the swinging sixties, wide boy Danny (JACK HUSTON – OUTLANDER) acquires a lump of uranium and shows it to his pal Kenny (RAY WINSTONE – 44 INCH CHEST).  They can’t figure out what it is but try to sell it onto some unsavoury types they know led by John Lynch’s  (SCREWED) identical twin gangsters Bill & Ben. They then get sent on a mission around Europe to find a buyer accompanied by Danny’s feisty girlfriend Carole (LOIS WINSTONE – BASEMENT), the twins’ oppo, Harry (COLM MEANEY – BEL AMI) and an slippery German called Fritz (DERREN NESBITT – WHERE EAGLES DARE). Much double crossing and double dealing lead them to Vatican City and a mysterious CIA agent Harrison (DAVID HAREWOOD – VICTIM).  After much criss-crossing back and forth across the English Channel and Europe we are pretty much fagged out and close to switching off the thing off.

The Hot Potato reminds me of a section of another Britpic called Churchill- The Hollywood Years, in which their was a whole enclave of so-called ‘Irish Cockneys’ on hand to take bullets and assist the hero at every turn.  They were very much a pastiche on the cliched American view of how us Limeys used to live in period movies. Films like  Titanic and Far and Away being the worst offenders. Well, it seems that recently the “Irish Cockney” has taken over our own films.  We don’t need the Americans to populate their films with ‘cheeky chappy fluffy cockneys” because we’re doing it ourselves.  Another recent movie like this was the Jason Statham vehicle The Bank Job.  Bank Robbers and criminal fences like the main characters are rarely cuddly and cheery like the bunch on show here.  Led by national treasure Ray Winstone, the makers were clearly hoping for some of the old “Only Fools and Horses” magic to rub off on the film.  The whole exercise is a slog though. A really slow plod through a perfunctory series of action sequences that barely break a sweat.  The “Cor blimey gavnor” script has a lot to be desired and the game cast, who all pull off reasonably good performances, are only running at half-speed.  It’s a shame because they’ve assembled a great cast and squandered their efforts on a boring, cliche led, trudge of a caper. The production values are impressive. A few quid has been spent on the cars and the clothing. The score has ambitions to be from a frothy european crime caper like The Thomas Crown Affair. But all attempts at trying to catch a fire Italian Job style are banal.  The Hot Potato is a corny and crucially not that hot.

3.5 out of 10 – A well acted, but badly cliched trudge of a caper movie.  An expensive folly and supposedly based on fact?


  • Ray Winstone: The Legend of Barney Thompson, Point Break (2015), The Gunman, Noah, Lords of London, Ashes,  The Sweeney Movie, Snow White & The Huntsman, Elfie Hopkins, Hugo, London Boulevard, The Devil’s Tomb, Rango (voice), Fathers Of Girls, Tracker, Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll, 44 Inch Chest, Edge Of Darkness, Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skulls, Fool’s Gold, Breaking and Entering, The Departed, Cold Mountain, Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe (voice),  The Proposition, King Arthur (2004),  Ripley’s Game, The Martins, Last Orders, Sexy Beast, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, Nil By Mouth, Love Honour and Obey, Fanny and Elvis,  Final Cut,  Martha – Meet Daniel Luke and Laurence, Face, Ladybird Ladybird, Tank Malling, Quadrophenia, Scum, Robin Of Sherwood (TV)
  • Jack Huston: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Longest Ride, American Hustle, Kill Your Darlings, Boardwalk Empire (TV), Twilight- Eclipse, Mr Nice, Outlander, Shrooms, Factory Girl
  • Lois Winstone: The Rapture (2015), TravellerBasement, Fathers Of Girls
  • Colm Meaney: A Belfast Story,  One Chance, Alan Partridge- Alpha Papa, The Cold Light Of Day, Bel Ami, Get Him To The Greek,  The Damned Utd, Intermission, This Is My Father, Claire Dolan, Con Air, The Road To Wellville, War Of The Buttons, The Committments, The Snapper, The Van, Star Trek – Deep Space 9 (TV), Under Siege, Into the West, The Last Of The Mohicans (1992), Far and Away, Die Hard 2
  • John Lynch: Detour, ScintillaPrivate PeacefulGhostedBlack Death, The Tournament, 13Hrs, Sliding Doors, The Secret Of Roan Inish, The Secret Garden (1993), In The Name Of The Father, Angel Baby, The Tournament, Best, This Is The Sea, Some Mother’s Son, Moll Flanders (1996),  Nothing Personal, Princess Caraboo, Edward II, Hardware, Cal
  • Derren Nesbitt:  Run For Your Wife, Double X (1992), Bullseye, Where Eagles Dare, The Blue Max, Dr Who (TV)
  • David Harewood: Tulip Fever, Grimsby, SuperBob, Spooks – The Greater Good, Third Person, Homeland (TV), The Man Inside (2012), Victim, Blood Diamond, The Hawk, Mad Dogs and Englishmen

One thought on “THE HOT POTATO


    Ray Winstone plays a moderately dodgy businessman in sixties London who acquires a lump of uranium which he tries to sell to various shady foreigners whilst being chased around Europe by some other shady foreigners.
    The best thing about THE HOT POTATO is the title. And even that’s not particularly great. There’s very little that is actually wrong with the film, and a great deal that is OK. It just suffers from a fatally flawed problem: the story is terminally, irredeemably dull.
    The film-makers have obviously tried to give it the look and feel of a sixties caper film like CHARADE or THE PINK PANTHER or THE ITALIAN JOB. There’s some jaunty conspiratorial music, stylish opening credits and sequences shot across Europe. And Lois Winstone (who more than redeems her performance in BASEMENT here) is easily the best thing in this as a secretary who reinvents herself as Emma Peel. But it’s not enough.
    I have rarely seen a more uninterestingly pointless film. The acting is fine – indeed, significantly better than it should be (apart from a disastrously unfunny comedy German from Derren Nesbitt) (not that I object to comedy Germans at all, just unfunny comedy Germans, and that is unforgiveable). There’s a lot of nice period detail, and some good ideas, like having John Lynch as twins – but then they do next to nothing with the idea. The film also pretty much ignores those two really important things to consider when you’ve got some uranium to drag around Europe: (a) that it’s a dangerous cancer-making thing likely to kill you, and (b) whoever you sell it to is likely to want to kill lots of people with it. True, there are scenes where Ray Winstone finds out that the stuff is indeed killing him, and where he gets told what uranium is used for. But the film then skates blandly and lumpishly along. The main property of the uranium as far as the plot is concerned is that it’s comically heavy.
    Apparently it’s based on a true story. But there is no story, just an endless succession of aborted meetings and comedy foreigners. I suppose it may pass muster as an undemanding Sunday afternoon film to snooze along to, but I’m just puzzled as to how such an uninspired script managed to get such an attractive production. Ray Winstone is in his usual dependable mode, though his heart doesn’t really seem in it (except for one scene near the end when he’s on the phone). As a caper movie it fails to caper, as a comedy it’s not funny, as an adventure it lacks adventure, as a true story it seems uninterested in telling us anything. I often find myself in these reviews saying that there’s a good idea here if only…, but on this occasion I don’t think there is. There’s a lot more to the 60s caper movie than a bunch of dullards wandering around selling nuclear gubbins with fake comedy Germans running around in the background.

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