mon 22/04/2024

Blu-ray: Restless Natives | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Restless Natives

Blu-ray: Restless Natives

Ramshackle but endearing Scottish comedy

'We don't have any money.' Vincent Friell and Joe Mullaney in Restless Natives

That a film has a cult following doesn’t mean it’s a masterpiece, and 1985’s Restless Natives is sweet but ephemeral, a Scottish crime caper that can’t hold a candle to Bill Forsyth’s sparky debut, That Sinking Feeling.

Both are set in a period when Scotland’s industrial base was being dismantled, and you could place both films in the same part of the cultural Venn diagram which contains the TV programmes Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Boys From the Blackstuff, the latter’s Bernard Hill having a role here as one protagonist’s father.

Restless natives packshotDirected by Michael Hoffman using a script which had won first prize in a young screenwriters’ competition, Restless Natives follows two Edinburgh school leavers stuck in dead-end jobs. Will (Vincent Friell) sweeps up litter dropped by tourists, while best mate Ronnie (Joe Mullaney) dispenses stink bombs and fart powder in a dusty joke shop.

Fed up with life on the margins, they become modern-day highwaymen, riding out into the Highlands on an underpowered motorbike. Their first attempt at larceny is one of the film’s funniest scenes, Ronnie’s muffled “This is a hold up!” inaudible behind his steamed-up helmet visor, tourists Nanette Newman and Bryan Forbes mistaking him for a student collecting for rag week and giving him just 50p.

Donning clown and wolf man masks while carrying a fake pistol and a gun which fires a cloud of itching powder proves more successful, and before long the pair are holding up buses and relieving American tourists of spare cash and jewellery. That one of the victims is CIA man Ned Beatty doesn’t bode well, and he’s improbably drafted in to help the local police catch the boys. There are some witty throwaway lines, one elderly tourist in the station describing Will’s wolf mask as “more like the Lon Chaney one,” and a young officer dismissing the bumptious Beatty as “the Man from Uncle”.

Restless natives landscapeSuccess inevitably leads to conflict between the two. Will feels increasingly guilty about his crimes and begins a relationship with Terri Lally’s Margot, a guide on one of the coaches they’ve robbed. Ronnie’s conscience is clear and he falls in with members of Edinburgh’s criminal underworld. They compromise by becoming folk heroes, redistributing bundles of stolen banknotes to those in need. Things become chaotic and confusing, but the scenery is magnificent, the well-choreographed action sequences accompanied by a soaring Big Country soundtrack. Extras include a very entertaining "making-of’" documentary featuring many of the crew. 

Restless Natives feels creaky at times, which is unsurprising given the low budget. Tonally, it’s reminiscent of a Children’s Film Foundation feature, and the scenes with child actors are among the most memorable: look out for the scene with the boy banned from buying goods in Ronnie’s shop, and a star turn from the girl playing Will’s wise younger sister. Hoffmann and producer Andy Paterson recall the difficulties of filming on buses and dealing with unpredictable Scottish weather, Paterson providing an entertaining commentary. Studio Canal’s restored print looks and sounds fabulous.




That one of the victims is CIA man Ned Beatty doesn’t bode well


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters