Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5  
The Parole Officer (2001)

John Duigan has yet to deliver on the promise of his quirky coming-of-age tales "The Year My Voice Broke" and "Flirting", and recent years have found him presiding over little-seen flops like "Molly" and "The Leading Man". But the director returns to something like his best form with this comedy caper, an intermittently hilarious vehicle for British TV star Steve Coogan.

Steve Coogan, who shot to fame with such anarchic characters as Alan Partridge and Paul Calf, plays Simon Garden, a Blackpool parole officer so utterly ineffectual (he only has three successful clients on his resumé) he is transferred by his superiors to Manchester. In no time at all this well-meaning twerp finds himself framed for a murder he didn't commit by bent copper DI Burton (Stephen Dillane).

The one piece of evidence that will prove Simon's innocence is locked away in a bank vault, so he assembles his ex-clients and persuades them to break in and steal it. What follows mixes the light-hearted antics of "The Lavender Hill Mob" with such high brow gags as Simon chundering on a roller-coaster or disposing of a phallus sculpture in a ladies' loo.

Coogan belongs to a noble tradition of English pratfallers that includes Norman Wisdom and Peter Sellers, though it remains to be seen if he will enjoy their success. Cannily, though, he surrounds himself with enough talent to disguise his shortcomings, with Om Puri, Ben Miller, and Steven Waddington making the most engagingly hopeless band of crims since "The Ladykillers".

Read what Newsnight have to say about it.

End Credits

Director: John Duigan

Writer: Steve Coogan, Henry Normal

Stars: Steve Coogan, Lena Headey, Om Puri, Steven Waddington, Ben Miller, Stephen Dillane

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Length: 94 minutes

Cinema: 10 August 2001

Country: UK

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