12 Hostages, 24 Hours, 1 Partridge

Declan Lowney

Steve Coogan
Colm Meaney

Bloody siege films. A familiar sight in lower budget releases (due to the minimal locations and small cast/crew) and in the right hands they offer a writer the canvas to produce clever dialogue and simple scenarios. Most of the time, it’s just a long, drawn out mess of tedium and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is just another title in a long line of unimpressive middling similar releases. Ego-inflated disc jockey, Alan Partridge [Coogan], works at North Norfolk Digital and his mid-morning chat show represents everything antiquated and embarrassing about local radio: over opinionated call-ins, outdated musical requests and clumsily delivered offensive remarks. Yet he seems popular with the listeners and therefore has retained his job all these years. After a takeover by Goredale Media, several of the staff believe redundancies will be made and send Alan to the board to negotiate. Upon learning that the two primary candidates for removal are himself or fellow DJ, Pat Farrell [Meaney], he immediately saves his own skin and Pat is fired. Later that day, Pat returns with a shotgun and takes hostages. Alan manages to escape and becomes the police’s chief liaison – as Pat will only speak with Alan. But will Pat find out that Alan was the one who got him fired? How will the siege end? Stretch those two simple questions out for a further seventy minutes and you’ll have a rough idea of how quickly this movie begins to circle the drain.

Alpha Papa is a rather mercurial release, continually sliding back-and-forth between amusing lines/setups and completely tedious scenarios. As if any hints of genuine comedy were slowly and steadily beaten and reduced to passing giggles in favour of exposition and rather paint-by-numbers direction. The bookend scenes offer us a real taste of the Partridge character we’re familiar with but once the siege plotline wades in, it settles down and chortles its unwelcome hairy arse off into the camera for a solid hour and a bit before finally exiting and leaving us a glimpse of the humour that made Alan Partridge a household name.. in some houses.. in certain counties. The acting is perfectly commendable from all involved but the characters themselves are very simplistic and unimaginative. Partridge-canon faces such as Lynn, Michael and Sidekick Simon get a few appearances but aren’t overused – which would usually be a positive statement but in this case it’s to give way for more Partridgeisms that fall flat – and the newcomers are fitting but thoroughly disposable. So taking these fairly flat characters and placing them sequentially in a series of hideously repetitive plot devices is crippling at times. Alan’s in the building, out of the building, in the building. It becomes very mundane very quickly and the overall message that change and faceless corporate takeovers are bad is readily accepted by ‘the general public’. So rather than being condemned, the public rally around Pat the underdog and his plight; which actually doesn’t work thematically, especially as Alan (the ‘hero’) is a weasel, continually working the angles.

There are times when I really hate ‘British comedies’ with their slews of guilt inspired laughs, silly sex jokes and jovial awkwardness. What embarrasses me more is the adoration they’re slathered in by limp-minded audiences and reviewers desperate to set a trend by highlighting how much they ‘get it’. I’m reminded of the release of A Cock And Bull Story, which critics fell over themselves lauding praise aplenty but was in fact rather mediocre. In conclusion, the cameos were lacklustre, the plot was simple, the direction was straight forward, the acting was average, the jokes were good but far from plentiful, the music was insipidly dull and the point was so horribly and completely missed. And yet, the film is far from bad. I may have only said a total of five positive words about this movie but I was still led to the end without checking my watch or feeling the passage of time come to a standstill, when the jokes worked they worked incredibly well and as tiresome as the narrative was, it could have been so much worse – Johnny English comes to mind. I left the cinema feeling very indifferent but by the time I gathered my thoughts, it occurred to me I was fairly bored. Similarly to The World’s End, I seem to be one of the only critics who didn’t get the euphoric reaction that most seem to have been graced with. Alan Partridge fan or not, this effort was a fair go but comes up short.

Release Date:
9th August 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
In one of his many transitionary scenes (in the building, out of the building, etc.), Alan accidentally manages to escape the siege. Realising he’s become the centre of attention and so very desperate to cling to the limelight as long as possible, he desperately tries to get back into the broadcasting centre. Cue a bit of average slapstick culminating in catching his trousers on a window latch and defrocking his lower half. “Oh now. Alan Partridge with his todger hanging out. Most embarrassing. Oh and look here. An armed policeman wants him to raise his hands! Oh hilarious. Whatever will he do? Tucking his cock and balls in between his legs? Oh stop, it’s all too much. Next you’ll tell me that a notorious paparazzi fiend will appear and photograph his posterior and smushed genitalia. There’s one now! Oh, Mr. Partridge you are too much. Whatever will you do next?” Fuck off.

Notable Characters:
Colm Meaney outshines everyone, in terms of performance but also makes his character curiously sympathetic. Granted, that could be down to the fact that the other supporting characters aren’t given much of a look in. Either way, he’s a delight and when he’s actually given things to do, it’s pleasant watching him command the scene. Tim Key as Sidekick Simon also deserves a nod but, as stated before, is criminally underused.

Highlighted Quote:
“I found when I went through my dark stage that Norfolk may not have been the best place to be. You know, ’cause it’s so flat… and depressing”

In A Few Words:
“Feeling more like a feature length episode of a TV show, Alpha Papa fails to bring the wit, humour and self-deprecation that makes the Alan Partridge character so appealing”

Total Score: