'Three and Out': Is This Really Supposed to Be a Comedy?

Why did this UK film go straight-to-DVD in the US? I know why.

Three and Out

Director: Jonathan Gershfield
Cast: Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Gemma Arterton, Imelda Staunton
Length: 99 min
Studio: Rovinge Motion Picture Company [RMPC]
Year: 2008
Distributor: Entertainment One
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: 2010-11-09

The biggest mistake I made upon my first viewing of Three and Out was expecting it to be a comedy. I think I could be forgiven for making this mistake; in fact I believe the filmmakers and their publicists made it, too. I mean, look at that cover! Mackenzie Crook staring straight into the camera! A dog that only appears in about 30 seconds of the movie’s first scene! That goofy, crooked font!

When things get started this misconception isn’t exactly cleared up. The speed with which the premise setup is dispatched (London Tube driver unintentionally kills two people on his route; his coworkers tell him if he strikes a third within a month then a secret policy will allow him to retire with ten years’ wages) leads one to believe the filmmakers are cutting character development to get straight to the jokes. There’s a montage to Blondie’s “One Way Or Another” (as our hero searches for suicidal prospects) that culminates in a “hilarious” Frenchman asking to be eaten, and later we’re treated to a chase scene through a cow pasture involving a dad in his skivvies and a lover jumping out the offending daughter’s window.

Despite all these attempts at “comic relief”, it would be generous to classify this movie as a comedy, even a “dark” one. The problem with Three and Out is that it never quite finds its tone. There’s the buddy-comedy between our hero Paul (Mackenzie Crook) and his suicidal prospect Tommy (Colm Meaney), the familial reconciliation/black-sheep-makes-good tale between Tommy and his estranged family, and then there’s the tacked-on love story between Paul and Tommy’s foul-mouthed daughter “Frankie” with the Le Loup posters on her wall (Bond girl and Prince of Persia siren-to-come Gemma Arterton). It’s not easy to blend such disparate tones together into a coherent whole, and with his first feature after a career of TV shows and music videos, perhaps director Jonathan Gershfield hasn’t quite yet honed the necessary skills.

There’s also some confusion over whose story this is; the apparent answer is Paul (Crook) – the top-billed star with the biggest-sized face on the cover, and the character to whom we’re first introduced – but it seems like much more effort has been put into developing the character of Tommy (Meaney). Really though, there’s not much about either of these characters that’s worth investing in. Paul’s supposed to be a deep thinker because he reads Burroughs and Dostoyevsky, although we never see anything else to support this. Everybody keeps looking at photos to amp up their emotions (and to signal to the audience that emotions are at play, somehow). It doesn’t really become clear how a man who is shut-down enough to regularly stand on a bridge contemplating suicide comes to a point where he can write a letter eloquent enough to make his daughter cry, but that he does.

The bravest thing about this movie is its ending; I wouldn’t want to spoil anything if you’re still inspired to pop in this disc (which you’ll likely have to actually buy if you’re in the US: its Netflix page says “DVD availability date unknown”) after all this, but suffice it to say it actually does not take the cop-out route I was expecting to follow the palatable mush of the first hour and 30-minutes.

It seems this film was alternatively titled A Deal’s A Deal, which is a phrase the two leading men can’t stop repeating back to one another. Nothing about this movie, of course, is subtle. Even the music is way too on-the-nose. Lee Mead (doing his best Del Amitri impression) sings “somebody help me, yeah / somebody tell me what I’ve done wrong” as Paul sweats his mistakes. Mead also covers Carole King’s (or James Taylor’s, if you prefer) “You’ve Got a Friend” over a romantic montage at the end. And guess when Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen” plays?

I’ve been vaguely following Mackenzie Crook’s career ever since he played the “right wally” (Crook’s words) Gareth Keenan in the seminal UK incarnation of “The Office”: a career which had thus far amounted to a string of tiny bit parts and a supporting Pirates of the Caribbean role, and so I had been looking forward to seeing him here as a leading man for some time. This film seems to have won some awards (according to IMDB) at a few minor film festivals in 2008-9 (Durango, Garden State, Honolulu) but never caught a US theatrical release at all.

Crook’s got a pretty unfortunate combination of bad haircut/nasty facial hair in this film, which are about as flattering as Gareth Keenan’s oversized suit shoulders. He’s a skeletal guy, sure, but Crook doesn’t have to be bad-looking; it’s too bad he’s got to play such busted-looking scraggly dudes all the time, although good for him for suffering for his art. I guess. Speaking of suffering for art, incidentally, in one scene in this film he gets dangled over a bridge and apparently actually broke a rib doing it (Damon Syson, Daily Mail, 12 April 2008).

As a DVD release, this package isn’t much to be proud of. There’s the aforementioned misleading broad-comedy artwork splashed across both the front cover and the menu screen (which also features that aggressively-mediocre “Somebody Help Me” song), with just one press quote highlighted: Fox News has apparently called it “laugh-out-loud, fun”. Oh boy.

There’s no commentary track: generally a sign that at least the DVD distributor and possibly the filmmakers themselves didn’t care enough about the film to think about it after making it. There is a 25-minute making-of doc which basically amounts to the actors summarizing their parts, as well as ten deleted scenes (which are mostly really extended or alternate takes on existing scenes), and a bunch of trailers. That’s the full extent of the special features. These extras are very much in line with the general quality of the film as the whole: not the worst thing ever, but rather cobbled-together, poorly thought-out, and forgettable, and honestly probably not worth sitting through. Unless, like me, you’re a completist regarding one of these actors, and you don’t mind a disappointment every once in a while.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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