Parting Shots

UK 1998

Reviewed by Richard Falcon


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

London-based phot0grapher Harry Sterndale is told he has only six weeks to live. Deciding to get even with everyone who has treated him badly, Harry goes to buy a gun. He goes to see his ex-wife Lisa, who left him after Harry lost all his money. Harry shoots her dead. Next up is financier Gerd Layton who swindled Harry out of his savings. Harry drowns Layton in his own swimming pool, but is discovered by Layton's PA Jill who secretly hated her boss.

Harry and Jill fall in love and go to dine at a posh restaurant. The head chef Renzo humiliates them so Harry kills him. Harry discovers his insurance policy will pay out more money if he meets a violent death, so he hires hitman Stewart to kill him. Harry takes Jill to the country where he shoots the bully who tormented him at school, and then kills an "old friend", Maurice Walpole, who stole Harry's ideas when they went into business together. However, Harry discovers he is not going to die after all. He tries to call off Stewart, who shoots a visiting dictator while trying to kill Harry. Stewart is arrested and confesses to Harry's murders. Harry is free to live happily ever after with Jill.


At one point in this latest dog's dinner from Michael Winner, Chris Rea's Harry muses over his photographic album, and compares the betrayal of his "friends" with kids mugging old ladies. "In there," he says, "are all the people who mugged me." Harry's subsequent revenge against a series of ridiculously caricatured victims echoes this sentiment by constantly referring back to Winner's most famous movie, Death Wish. Like the hero of that earlier movie, Harry plays music loudly to celebrate after his first murderous act. Rockstar Rea, in his first role, and the only likable element in this movie, looks occasionally like a middle-aged 70s Charles Bronson who has never worked out. (In fact Winner's talent for making male flesh look grotesque through flatly lit, low wide-angle shots should have given both Rea and Bob Hoskins pause for thought before agreeing to the swimming-pool scene.) Harry's victims have included a shrewish ex-wife and a self-regarding celebrity chef (fallout, perhaps, from Winner's well-publicised barring from the restaurant La Gavroche last year). Both these characters, though nasty, have broken no laws, so when the police suggest Harry's trail of revenge will put them out of a job, it only makes sense as a reference to Death Wish.

The most interesting thing here, then, is the way Parting Shots brings the whole idea of self-reflexivity into disrepute. It serves as a dismal summary of the director's career to date, one in which the swinging-60s comedies and the vigilante movies finally fuse to no great purpose. Instead of laughs, we get excessively ripe turns from performers who should know better, including Diana Rigg and John Cleese (the presence of the latter tells us this is comedy in the absence of any other cues). In fact, this looks like little more than another case of the director slapping together a film with his celebrity friends. True friends, though, tell you when you're embarrassing yourself.


Michael Winner
Michael Winner
Nick Mead
From a story by
Michael Winner
Director of Photography
Ousama Rawi
Arnold Crust
[i.e. Michael Winner]
Chris Barnes
Production Designer
Crispian Sallis
Music/Music Arranger
Les Reed
©Michael Winner Ltd
Production Company
Scimitar Films presents a Michael Winner film
Associate Producer
Ron Purdie
Production Co-ordinator
Christine Fenton
Location Manager
Michael Harvey
Assistant Directors
Antony Ford
Toby Hefferman
Script Supervisor
Hilary Fagg
Noel Davis Casting
1970s Photos
Tom Hustler
Sue Wain
Emma Lock
Special Hair/Make-up
Deborah Lindsell
Stevie J. Hall
Dinah May
Peter Govey
Main Themes/Songs Composer/Performer
Chris Rea
Barrie Guard
Strings Arranger
Max Middleton
Sound Engineer
Frederic Blanc-Garin
Dick Lewzey
Sound Mixer
Ian Munro
Re-recording Mixers
Dean Humphreys
Tim Cavagin
Mark Lafbery
Venetia Crust
[i.e. Vanessa Perry]
Sound Editor
Jim Roddan
Chris Rea
Harry Sterndale
Felicity Kendal
Jill Saunders
Bob Hoskins
Gerd Layton
Ben Kingsley
Renzo Locatelli
Joanna Lumley
Oliver Reed
Jamie Campbell Stewart
Diana Rigg
John Cleese
Maurice Walpole
Gareth Hunt
Inspector Bass
Peter Davison
Patrick Ryecart
Nicholas Gecks
Detective Constable Ray
Caroline Langrishe
Nicky Henson
Sheila Steafel
president's wife
Edward Hardwicke
Doctor Joseph
Ruby Snape
Nicola Bryant
Vanessa Perry
Tristan Middleton
Taryn Kay
Mrs Layton
Alison Reynolds
Zoe Layton
Michael Ayers
young Harry Sterndale
Steve Brownlie
young Maurice Walpole
Sarah Reeves
young Lisa
Brian Poyser
President Zlomov
Trevor Baxter
maître d'
David Marrick
wine waiter
William Wilde
Jamie's solicitor
Timothy Carlton
Commissioner Grosvenor
Donald Standen
Sarah Parish
ad agency receptionist
John Tordoff
father of the bride
Nora Connolly
mother of the bride
Andrew Grainger
best man
Andrew Neil
Alison Jack
TV newsreaders
Peter Gale
ballistics expert
Jon Paul Morgan
lab assistant
Jack Galloway
TV journalist
David Griffith
hotel official
Mildred Shay
Mary Mitchell
old ladies at wedding
Roland Curram
Lord Selwyn
Jenny Logan
Lady Selwyn
Jeremy Peters
country policeman
Christopher Routh
young policeman
Mark Gillis
Mark Hill
Mark Stratford
Steve Paget
Barney Craig
Steve Bronowski
officer 1
Nathan Weaver
Harry Sterndale, aged 12
Craig Jelley
Cleverley, aged 12
Tim Kelly
Jay Hammond
Anthony Smee
Crispian Belfrage
Father Donovan
Patsy the poodle
United International Pictures (UK) Ltd
8,853 feet
98 minutes 22 seconds
Dolby stereo
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011