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Match, The (1999, Max Beesley, Laura Fraser)

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Featuring one of the most eccentric casts ever assembled in the Scottish Highlands – yes, that is former Page Three model Sam Fox serving pints behind the bar – Mick Davis’s feature debut plays like a cross between Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero and the Sean Bean drama When Saturday Comes.

An unashamedly sentimental football pic that likes to go straight for goal (think of it as an attack-minded 4-4-2 rather than anything as exotic as 3-5-1-1), there are strong performances from a likeable cast, including ex-Take That keyboardist Max Beesley and Saving Private Ryan star Tom Sizemore. And look out for a couple of eye-catching cameos from Pierce Brosnan (who was also one of the producers) and Newcastle star Alan Shearer.

Utilising the stunningly picturesque vistas around Loch Lomond, The Match is set in the fictitious Highland village of Inverdoune. The village is the centre of a fierce rivalry between two drinking establishments: the downtrodden Benny’s Bar, run by the cantankerous Big Tam (Ian Holm), and the upmarket Le Bistro, owned by the pompous Gorgeous Gus (a larger-than-life Richard E Grant, whose wife also worked on the film as a dialect coach – cynics may note that she didn’t take her work home with her). Local tensions are running particularly high, as the 100th annual football match between the two establishments is on the horizon – winner takes all.

When Big Tam dies of lung failure, young milkman Wullie Smith (Beesley) is encouraged to coach the Benny’s Bar team – a hapless bunch who have history, as well as Gus’s boys, against them (Benny’s Bar has never won a match in the series). Wullie, who has worn a leg calliper since birth, combines training with the courtship of Rosemary (Laura Fraser), a childhood friend who’s just returned from university. But with Benny’s Bar two goals down in the big game, a half-time substitution and Wullie’s inspired coaching are needed to turn things round.

production details
UK | 95 minutes | 1999

Director and Writer: Mick Davis

cast
Michael Nardone as Dingus
David Hayman as Scrapper
Bill Paterson as Tommy
James Cosmo as Billy Bailey
Pierce Brosnan as John MacGhee
Max Beesley as Wullie Smith
Isla Blair as Sheila Bailey
Richard E. Grant as Gorgeous Gus
Laura Fraser as Rosemary Bailey
Ian Holm as Big Tam
Tom Sizemore as Buffalo
Neil Morrissey as Piss Off
David O’Hara as Mechanic
Iain Robertson as Danny Van Boy
Gary Lewis as Dead Eye
Ron Donachie as Happy Feet
Samantha Fox as Patsy Kennedy
Sally Howitt as Carol McGhee
Jonathan Watson as Charlie
Andy Gray as Arrow
Paul Doonan as Lefty
Mark O’Hare as Righty
Gary McCormack as Growler
Hope Ross as Anna Smith
Russell Barr as Nancy No Pants
Chris Symes as English Harry
Edward McQuillan as Pasty Face
Alan Shearer as Himself

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