Director: Keri Collins
Cast: Ray Panthaki, Vicky McClure, Adeel Akhtar
Synopsis: Two convenience store robbers mess up the crime and end up working there for the rest of the night.
In real life, a couple of losers like Ajay (Ray Panthaki – 28 Days Later) and Shaan (Adeel Akhtar – Traitor, The Dictator) just wouldn’t be funny, and to be honest, they don’t generate too many laughs in Convenience, a low-budget comedy that mostly takes place in one of those bland convenience stores that overlooks every garage forecourt in the country. The bumbling crooks take their place at the end of a long line of mismatched comedy double acts that have graced our screens since silent days, and conform to the industry standard of the well-meaning incompetent paired with a long-suffering – but only slightly more competent – partner. Shaan’s the essentially kind-hearted inadequate (even though he’s robbing a convenience store) who, while looking for a quiet place to read, inadvertently runs up a bill for £8552 at a strip joint run by Russian gangsters, and Ajay is the long-suffering one whose belief that his friendship with Shaan repeatedly derails his life-plans is clearly a coping tactic designed to disguise his own sense of inadequacy.
The duo has until daybreak to repay the debt, so they hit upon the idea of robbing a 24-hour service station. Unfortunately, they arrive just minutes after a shift change during which the day’s takings were placed in a time-lock safe which isn’t due to open until 6am that morning. Most robbers would cut their losses and beat a hasty retreat, but Ajay and Shaan decide to tie up the manager and a customer in the back office and pose as members of staff until the safe unlocks. Returning from an extended break, Levi (Vicky McClure), the second member of staff, initially mistakes the hapless thieves for a pair of apprentices due to start the following day and therefore unwittingly aids them in their deceit until she eventually stumbles upon the hostages in the back office.
Any laughs to be found in Convenience are pretty thin, and its pace has a 3am-in-the-morning feeling about it. The steady stream of deadbeats and weirdos who frequent service stations in the dead of night should provide a comedy writer with a rich source of material from which to mine some big laughs, but Simon Fantauzzo too often lets the opportunity pass him by. There’s an unfunny cameo from Verne Troyer that lacks a punchline, and another from Anthony Head (The Iron Lady) which is at least appropriate to the dead-of-night atmosphere, and which foreshadows the sudden emotional depth Fantauzzo works into a final act which is considerably better than the two that precede it. Convenience does have a certain charm at times, and its three enthusiastic leads give likable performances; too often, though, they’re called upon to act out tired routines we’ve all seen before.
(Reviewed 18th October 2015)