Buster (1988)

Whether you like this or not depends on how much you sympathise with a petty crook who turns up late and in a freshly-stolen suit for a friend's funeral, and then nicks the floral tributes to take home to his wife. If you think this incident - which opens the film - makes Great Train Robber Buster Edwards (Phil Collins) sound like a lovable free spirit, then you'll probably find the rest of the picture, which takes him through the Crime of the Century to a life of comic misery on the run in sunny Acapulco, funny and moving. If you think he sounds like a callous bastard who gets away with too much because of his surface charm, then you'll be bored silly by his family problems and whinging about money and love. After the meticulously-planned and executed 1963 robbery, the crooks seem to have acted like floundering idiots and mainly got picked up and sentenced - thanks to the evil government influence of Anthony Quayle, according to this - to 30 years apiece, but blundering Buster somehow stayed ahead of the flatfeet and with his best mate Bruce (Larry Lamb) wound up enjoying the spoils of the job in Mexico. However, wifey June (Julie Walters) does nothing but complain about the heat, the lack of a good boozer and restaurants that don't serve steak and chips, and when their daughter chokes on the coin in a Christmas pudding the Edwardses learn all about the Mexican health service and it becomes obvious that the dream is turning sour. David Green, who directed Walters in the ghastly Car Trouble, has been luckier script-wise on his second venture, and Collins' cheeky thief act keeps the film on the move. But it's difficult not to get fed up with this bunch of real-life, not-particularly heroic crooks - the bludgeoning of the guard who later died of injuries sustained during the robbery is eclipsed by some comic business with the old duffer of a driver brought along to shunt the train along the tracks - and also hard to take Walters' self-righteous suffering when her character is so willing to live off the stolen loot.

First Published In: Venue (issue unknown)

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