The story goes that 2011’s A Few Best Men, an Australian-produced film with a British writer and two out of three British leads, was an international smash hit. If a film did well at the box office, or appears to have done well, its artistic value is not called into question. Six years later, a film that nobody asked for arrives in Australian cinemas: a film with fewer laughs than its dour predecessor. A Few Less Men is that very film.
After David (Xavier Samuel, Spin Out) gets married in the Blue Mountains, his friend Luke falls off a cliff, gets crushed by a rock, and dies. With his remaining best men, Graham (Kevin Bishop, David Brent: Life on the Road) and Tom (Kris Marshall, TV’s Death in Paradise), he must return Luke’s corpse to London in time for the funeral, lest he incur the wrath of Luke’s cousin Henry (Ryan Corr, TV’s Hoges). Hijinks ensue.
The highlight of A Few Less Men is its opening credits sequence, which recounts the entirety of A Few Best Men, minus the bits with the ram and the drug dealer. This animated segment is livelier than the rest of the film, though it stretches out far longer than it should, a dangerous precedent. A Few Less Men is only 92 minutes, but every scene is inordinately long: this is a film with no horizon, and each situation that the boys roll themselves into is somehow worse than the last.
The script, by original scribe Dean Craig (Moonwalkers), is the sort that tries to cover for its inherent offensiveness by pointing out that it is, in fact, offensive. That’s how we end up with a film released in 2017 that uses the word “tranny” repeatedly over the course of a scene, with one character telling another not to say it. When we’re not dealing with that, there’s a series of comedic set ups that have the disadvantage of not being funny concepts. Arguing over the relative merits of sleeping with a woman in her seventies (Lynette Curran, TV’s Deep Water) is not the basis for laughs, let alone a story obstacle. A Few Best Men and A Few Less Men both have aims, but only the former had a structure, and largely attempted to make sense.
Director Mark Lamprell (Goddess) has difficulty stringing the film together cohesively, giving it entirely too much breathing room and making no scene memorable. You have to stick around until the end of the credits to recall many of the set pieces, because they come back in the form of an overlong, unimaginative blooper reel of the “actor laughs instead of delivering a line” stripe. It takes a lot of effort to make a Burning Man knock-off instantly forgettable, but Lamprell somehow managed to expend it. Respectable Australian talent shows up on screen to slum it in the worst possible way and the returning cast, who have stable careers (Marshall is in a film that will be watched every Christmas until the very end of time itself) on relative upswings, all deserve much better.
A Few Less Men is a throwback of a film, and not in a good way; it’s messy rather than scrappy, and it just ends. If for whatever reason you want to spend time in the company of these charmless young gentlemen, you’d be best off watching A Few Best Men again — which shows just how desperately wrong A Few Less Men turned out.
A Few Less Men opened in Australian cinemas on March 9, 2017.
Directed by: Mark Lamprell.
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Kevin Bishop, Kris Marshall, Ryan Corr abd Lynette Curran.