UK 1998

Reviewed by Andy Richards


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

London's East End, the present. Virgil Guppy buys a Jaguar from car dealers David Leer and his son Buddy. Soon after, the car's engine explodes. Virgil wins damages against the Leers who go into hiding to avoid the bailiffs. The police then find a murdered prostitute in the car's boot. The evidence points to Virgil who is arrested. Virgil is convinced that David Leer has framed him. Released on bail, he loses his job, while his girlfriend Fiona leaves him for his charismatic friend Alex.

Virgil is knocked down by a stolen car driven by Tiffany Shades, who takes him home and tends to him. Tiffany has an incurable illness and is making a nest egg for her 10-year-old son Dolittle. Virgil helps Tiffany steal a car which, it turns out, the Leers have just bought. After David Leer is shot dead by an unseen assailant, Buddy Leer tracks down Virgil, whom he believes is his father's killer. Virgil pleads his innocence and Buddy gives him two days to clear his name. Virgil and Tiffany, who have become lovers, locate the Jaguar's original owner, but she is murdered before Virgil can speak to her. Virgil recognises a lighter left by the murderer as Alex's. Confronting Alex with a gun, Virgil can't bring himself to shoot him. Virgil flees, stealing Alex's car as he goes.

Tiffany dies, and Virgil shoots her corpse with Alex's gun before hiding her body in the back of Alex's car. The police discover the body and Alex is arrested. Released on bail, Alex has a final showdown with Virgil in a scrapyard. Struggling together, Virgil and Alex are run over by a truck. Virgil later recovers in hospital.


While both the UK broadcasters and the Arts Council - which administers lottery funds - have backed a fair number of misfires in the last few years, there is, at least, a sense that greenlighted scripts have to undergo some critical scrutiny before production gets under way. The impression you have watching debut director Gareth Rhys Jones' car-thriller Bodywork, which was financed from private investment, is that his script would have benefited substantially from a major overhaul and a brand new engine. As it is, the movie makes a series of misjudgements so damaging it's a virtual write-off.

As a whodunit - the plot hinges on Virgil's attempts to discover who framed him for a murder - Bodywork is a manifest failure. The villain of the piece is immediately apparent, and Jones' attempt to throw the viewer off the scent (dodgy car dealer David Leer's pledge that he will send someone to "take care of" Virgil, to whom he sold a Jaguar) hinges on a clumsy sleight of hand. Hans Matheson as Virgil passes muster as a Hitchcockian innocent on the run, but he can't support the script's hints about his character's darker side. Yet Virgil's yuppie aspirations and and his girlfriend Fiona's fickle corruptibility (crassly signalled by the VD she contracts from Virgil's friend Alex) hardly endear them to us. As a foil to Fiona's shallow passivity, we get wacky car thief Tiffany Shades, a mawkish creation enveloped in the worst kind of clichéd romanticism.

If the film is too lightweight to work as a psychological thriller, its flashes of broad comedy (an elderly court witness has trousers pulled up to his chest) and witty character turns (Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham as a dignified prostitute) sit uneasily with its more distasteful elements. The film's most memorable scene is also its biggest miscalculation: the grotesquely violent murder of a witness who dies by having a pair of cotton-wool swabs banged through her ears, the soundtrack suddenly cutting off with a sickening pop. In another context, this scene might have been praised for its inventiveness; here, it is so gratuitous as almost to beggar belief. Fitting then, perhaps, that Bodywork's finale should take place in a scrapyard.


Gareth Rhys Jones
Richard McGill
Gareth Rhys Jones
Director of Photography
Thomas Wuthrich
Susan Spivey
Production Designer
Jeremy Bear
Srdjan Kurpjel
Black Tooth
©Wolfmoon Film
Production Company
Wolfmoon Film presents
Executive Producer
Simon Decker
Production Supervisor
Ed Harper
Production Co-ordinator
Lesley Keane
Unit Manager
Patrick Stuart
Locations Manager
Andrew MacDonald Brown
Assistant Directors
Cindy Irving
Martin Dorey
Stephanie Westrate
Script Supervisor
Linda Gibson
Casting Director
Sarah Bird
Special Effects Supervisor
Alan Whibley
Associate Editor
Tariq Anwar
Art Director
Linda Stefansdottir
Furniture Designer
Ilka Schaumberg
Storyboard Artist
Ian Sciacaluga
Alan Martin
Costume Designers
Diane Holmes
Jayne Gregory
Wardrobe Mistress
Debbie Brown
Make-up/Hair Designer
Tara Smith
Title Design/Opticals
Peter Govey Film Opticals
Black Tooth
Hazel Brooks
Corrina Greyson
Gota Yashiki 'Groove Activator'
Music Supervisors
Karen Elliott
Matt Biffa
Original Score Producers/ Mixers
Ser'g Kurpjel
Black Tooth
Mastered by
Tony Cousins
"Hamfist" - Morgan Nicholls; "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven" - Albert King; "Can't Keep Living This Way", "Rootloose"; "Mother Sky" - Can; "Chase Me"; "Remember Me" - Blue Boy; "Over and Over" -Morcheeba; "Boogie Man"; "Humpty Dumpty", Here We Go round the Mulberry Bush"; "Love Is the Law" - The Seahorses; "Traffic"
Sound Recordists
Barry Reed
Clive Copeland
Re-recording Mixers
Craig Irving
Mark Lafbery
Aad Wirtz
John Falcini
Supervising Sound Editors
Nick Adams
Twydor Davis
Dialogue Editor
Jonathan Cronin
Effects Editor
Sam Southwick
ADR Engineers
Peter Gleaves
Mick Boggis
Ted Swanscott
Dianne Greaves
Patricia Greaves
Ted Swanscott
Paul Wrightson
Stunt Co-ordinator
Glen Marks
Paul Stentiford
Hans Matheson
Virgil Guppy
Charlotte Coleman
Tiffany Shades
Peter Ferdinando
Alex Gordon
Beth Winslet
Fiona Money
Lynda Bellingham
Poppy Fields
Clive Russell
Billy Hunch
Michael Attwell
David Leer
Peter Moreton
Buddy Leer
Simon Gregor
Jordan Maxwell
Dolittle Shades
Grahame Fox
Danny Sparks
Jeremy Clyde
Frank Mills
Sydney Greengrass
Velibor Topic
Rudi Scoot
Rachel Colover
Pamela Anwar
Tanya Luternauer
Jo Jo Jones
Newton Boothe
Clive Kneller
Squeaky Clean
Wayne Norman
Stewart Harwood
fat man
Jane Bertish
Willie Ross
homeless man
Roger Frost
Roger Brierley
district judge
Wendy Cooper
Artemis Manias Arnold
Simon Robson
James Vaughan
Dexter Moscow
Sue Derrick
Nat Lerner
Alan Jones
store manager
Jerome Blake
Heavy Harry
Jonathan Emmett
Jonathan Stratt
taxi driver
P.J. Bickford
Simon Hunt
June Romaine
phone woman
Howard Whitson
Lucie Pemberton
Glen Marks
truck driver
Chris Green
Adrian Wolfson
Paul Berry
Jill Spurrier
dock officer
Guy Winfield
court usher
Gordon Herbert
Simon Fraser
Patricia Kendall John
Maureen Hecht
bored knitter
Danny Da Costa
Jerome Blake
Guerilla Films
8,343 feet
92 minutes 42 seconds
Dolby Digital
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011