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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002)

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002)

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Released 29-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Trailer-Anita And Me, I Capture The Castle, Swimming Upstream
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 100:10 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Shane Meadows

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Robert Carlyle
Vanessa Feltz
Ricky Tomlinson
Kathy Burke
Vicki Patterson
Shirley Henderson
Finn Atkins
Kelly Thresher
Rhys Ifans
Andrew Shim
Ryan Bruce
Eliot Otis Brown Walters
Anthony Strachan
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music John Lunn

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, minor
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Once Upon A Time In The Midlands is a run-of-the-mill British film, albeit with a very strong cast. Indeed, the cast was what drew me to review this disc in the first instance. Unfortunately they are wasted on some fairly thin material and this film fails to maintain any significant interest for its over-long running time.

    Jimmy (Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting and Ravenous) is awoken from a drunken sleep by the sound from the television. To his surprise he sees his ex-wife Shirley (Shirley Henderson) on a daytime talk show, accompanied by her new boyfriend, Jimmy's sister Carol (the wonderful Kathy Burke) and her estranged husband Charlie (the great Ricky Tomlinson). Dek (Rhys Ifans, Danny Deckchair and Notting Hill)), the new boyfriend, asks Shirley to marry him live on the show and is gutted when she declines his proposal.

    When petty criminal Jimmy deserts his partners in crime during a bungled heist, he decides to head down south to the Midlands and seek out Shirley. His arrival is greeted with a mixture of surprise, delight and alarm from the various protagonists in the film. Shirley is torn by her old feelings for Jimmy and her new romance with the sensitive and self-deprecating Dek. Carol is at first pleased to see her brother, but is soon keen to see him return to Glasgow, once his irate fellow crooks turn up on her doorstep, determined to retrieve their share of the stolen cash.

    Jimmy is a charmer. Rough around the edges perhaps, but with his suave patter and trendy leather jacket he soon manages to woo Shirley all over again. Before too long, Dek is left out in the cold with only Shirley's (and Jimmy's) daughter Marlene (very convincingly played by Finn Atkins) on his side. The story plays out as Dek decides whether to fight for Shirley, or to pack his bags and head out of town, his tail between his legs and his pride in tatters.

    And that's about all there is to it. This is a fairly unimpressive film which, while it does contain some mildly interesting characters, never really hits the mark. The idea of the title, evoking memories of Sergio Leone's western showdown flicks, is only tenuously supported in the film. Charlie plays country and Western music and dresses as a cowboy. Dek and Jimmy represent the good and bad gunslingers respectively...but that's it. There is the odd moment of humour in the film, but, much as it pains me to say it, this is a fairly tedious, over-long anti-climax of a movie which squanders the (not inconsiderable) talent of Carlyle on a typecast role which he phones in. It left me yawning. Worth a weekly rental at a push.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality of this transfer is fairly mediocre, with an unwelcome degree of softness lending a low budget feel to the film. Close-ups are usually acceptably sharp, but generally middle distance shots have a grainy, less defined feel to them.

    The video is presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.75:1 which is significantly different from the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

    Black levels are deep and solid, with no significant low level noise. Shadow detail can be a tad limited on occasion, but is generally acceptable. Colours are a little muted at times, but this is probably typical of a movie shot against a cool British backdrop. They are solid however with no evidence of colour bleeding.

    I noticed no major MPEG compression artefacts in the transfer, but there is a general lack of sharpness to the transfer which may be compression related. The average bitrate of the disc is a slight 4.94 Mbps. There is a brief, but noticeable problem with the lime green lettering on the 3-wheeler hire car - an effect much like mosquito noise is noticeable at the interface between the purple car and the green letters. Edge enhancement does crop up sporadically throughout the movie, being most noticeable as a bright halo around some characters and around buildings - it was never a major distraction however. Aliasing was not an issue on my progressive scan system, but there is a hint of shimmer which is likely to be more problematic on interlaced systems. Telecine wobble is mildly evident during the film.

    Film artefacts are fairly frequent but usually fleeting and never become a significant distraction.

    Disappointingly for such a recent production, there are no subtitles on offer.

    This disc is single sided and single layered (DVD 5) so there is no layer change present.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The overall audio transfer is adequate but uninspiring.

    The sole audio track is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps. It is functional but will not be one you choose to impress your friends. There are no major defects evident, although it can tend to be a little quiet at times. The dialogue is transferred cleanly enough, but some may find the diverse (Scottish, Scouser, Welsh and Midlands) accents a little hard to follow at times. I noted no major issues with audio sync.

    The music is intended to evoke the cowboy theme and it does so reasonably. It is credited to John Lunn who appears to have done most of his work for television series. Ricky Tomlinson actually wrote and performed a couple of numbers and acquits himself fairly well.

    The soundstage is predominantly frontal with the main speakers presenting the audio transfer quite cleanly. The use of Pro Logic II will redirect some noise to the surrounds (some music but also ambience in the various bars and bingo halls), and the subwoofer will carry some (very rare) bass but there is nothing remarkable about the contribution of either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no significant extras present.


    The menu is a photo-montage of the characters accompanied by a short loop of the soundtrack. It allows the options of playing the film, selecting one of twenty-eight chapter stops or watching the following trailers:


    Presented in varying non anamorphic letterboxed aspect ratios with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 224 kbps, the following trailers run for a total of 7:00:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this film appears to have been given a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The Region 2 release is available as a 2 disc edition, also in a ratio of 2.35:1 and apparently with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. It seemingly contains quite an extensive collection of extras too:

The Region 2 release is evidently the preferred version.


    Once Upon A Time In The Midlands is an uninspiring character driven story of everyday lives in the British Midlands. There are a few smiles to be had, but overall this is a run-of-the-mill piece with little to recommend it. Possibly worth a weekly rental - just.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio transfer is uninspiring.

    There are no real extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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