Movie Review: “Flutter”

flut1A “Flutter,” the opening credits of the film of that title tell us, is Brit-slang for “a small wager.”

That sets us up for a movie in the sordid world of betting on sports — Cockney gambling addicts who rarely take the time to shave and clean up before dashing off to the track — a sort of Guy Ritchie-lite thriller.

And that’s what we get, with a Mephistophelian twist. This punter (Joe Anderson) gets himself mixed up with a bookie (Anna Anissmova) who pushes him into deeper and darker bets, seemingly bent on his destruction.

John (Anderson) has made gambling a career. Not that he’s great at it. His idea of “work” is hitting the dog track with his mates (Luke Evans, Max Brown). And somehow, he’s managed to marry a solicitor (Laura Fraser) who is OK with that. The one spoiler I’ll allow here is that this becomes reasonable when we see that the lawyer-wife is the daughter of a gambler.

Like any gambler, John’s eager to act on any tip that comes his way, even from his American dentist (Billy Zane, creepy as you’d expect). When he acts on this, he goes to his on-track bookie, Stan. But “fat, bald” Stan is gone. The new Stan is the overripe Ms. Anissmova, of “The Whistleblower.” Yes, the new Stan is trouble.

John, Wagner (Brown) and Adrian (Evans) aren’t above making the odd bet on each other. Who can eat a “ghost” chili without spitting it out?  But Stan, being an American, is looking for more IN-teresting wagers.

John’s bum tooth? She’s puts big money on whether he’ll have the guts to pull it out himself. There’s a school hostage situation on TV, and she’s got bets in on how many kids the villain will murder.

“That’s sick, Stan.”

“It’s a sick world, John.”

Thus does John, who narrates, spiral down a hole of Stan’s creation. The only bets that feel like “sure things” are whether he can spend a week, in his bathroom, without telling his wife why, and worse.

I like the world director Giles Borg and writer Stephen Leslie conjure up for this  2011 film, finally getting U.S. distribution/VOD play. The differences between American horse and dog tracks and British ones are interesting.

The cast, especially Evans (“Furious 7,” “Dracula Untold”), is why this didn’t stay on the shelf. Anderson (“The Grey,” “The Crazies,” Across the Universe”) makes a properly ratty gambling addict.  But the script and his performance of it never approach desperation. The voice-over narration undercuts the doom that’s supposed to hang over the picture.

The darkly comic premise lacks the lighter touch it needs to be the least bit comic. Stan insists all her bets be “secret,” and has an enforcer (Anton Lesser) to keep things honest. So even as the three pals notice that this one has a shaved head and that one other signs of “extreme wagering,” they don’t talk.

But nobody does enough to take this into the realm of “Faust.” There’s no urgency, and even when a lot’s at stake, you don’t always feel that.

Still, a thriller with this setting and this cast can never go too far wrong. “Flutter” doesn’t hit the jackpot, but at least it’s a decent even-money bet.

2half-star6
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, some of it graphic — profanity, gambling

Cast: Joe Anderson, Anna Anissmova, Luke Evans, Laura Fraser, Max Brown and Bill Zane
Credits: Directed by Giles Borg, script by Stephen Leslie. An XLRator release.

Running time: 1:26

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