If nothing else, this shaggy-dog crime comedy-musical wins points for originality. It’s almost certainly the first British crime film to swap oi-shut-it geezerish banter for songs. Though to be fair, the characters here don’t break into showtunes but baleful ballads of existential rawness written by actor-musician Johnny Flynn. He also co-stars as Mike, one of two amateurish criminals on their way (20 grand in the car boot) to pull off a deal with bigtime crooks – the “score” of the title. Flynn’s Mike is the boss; Will Poulter plays his mildly gormless lunk of a sidekick, Troy.
At a roadside caff in the middle of nowhere, the pair bicker as they wait for their gangland connection to show up. And they wait. Troy falls head over heels with spiky drop dead gorgeous waiter Gloria (Naomi Ackie). This causes him to doubt his image of manhood: the violence, swagger and machismo he’s been around his whole life. As a character he doesn’t make a whole lot of a sense: a bit of a thicko who nevertheless ponders the many meanings of the word “score” and can hold his own in Shakespearean English. Still, Poulter is a brilliant comic actor and supremely likable. On the basis of his work here, producers of Fargo should snap him up instantly for the next season.
The singing, though brave, doesn’t exactly sit right. Characters break into song to express their inner feelings, but the funny thing is that a lot of the lyrics have nothing to do with the film. So while the songs have a bruised soulfulness, they do take you out of the movie. It’s an odd choice by Flynn and writer-director Malachi Smyth – and a shame because there something tender and vulnerable about actors who are not singers exposing themselves with breathy, occasionally off-note voices. The movie noodles along amiably, but in the cold light of day, its quirks begin to feel like flaws.
• The Score is released on 9 September in cinemas.