Six Stages of Hell – ‘The Stars Collection’ Part 6: Buster (1988)

buster

Directed by: David Green

Although we’ve come to the end of the road, there is still one last film from ‘The Stars Collection’ left to review – ‘Buster’ starring Phil Collins.

Phil Collins was a constant thorn during my childhood; I think it was ‘I Can’t Dance’, a Genesis Music Video on constant rotation which haunted me most. He seemed to be everywhere back in those days. I was able to put these memories behind me until I developed an obsession with ‘American Psycho’ (book & film); Patrick Bateman’s adept summary of ‘Invisible Touch’ caused me to reappraise Phil Collins.

When I think about Collins, and I look at the vacuous world of pop nowadays, I don’t see how on earth he would survive today. Vocally he was average, yet he possessed a distinct nasally voice which sounded mildly interesting to daydreaming housewives buzzing on fondue. Looks wise, he was short, balding and in a time when a club footed Dudley Moore was a sex symbol, he against all odds… fitted in.

From the get go as ‘Keep on Running’ from the Spencer Davis Group plays, we know straight away that Buster is a cheeky chappy, a rogue, a bit of a lad. He steals a suited mannequin from a shop window, and changes into the suit before strutting across to a funeral that he is fashionably late for.

Buster is a domestic tale. A love story between Buster and his long suffering wife June played by Julie Walters. Whilst Buster is out taking part in The Great Train Robbery, poor June is having a miscarriage. Buster continually lets June down throughout the movie, and because she loves him, she continually takes him back.

The Great Train Robbery is glossed over a fair bit, and you can’t really get a sense of the share audacity of the plot. The film makes it out that the robbery was a victimless crime, although in reality there were two casualties, Jack Mills suffered from trauma headaches for the remainder of his life and died in 1970 and David Whitby was also left traumatised, dying from a heart attack aged 34 in 1972.

After the robbery Buster, June and their young daughter Nicky flee Blighty and end up going loco down in Acapulco.

In Mexico June gets homesick and struggles to adjust to a new culture. Whereas another of the robbers Bruce and his wife Franny are absolutely lapping it up, delighting in the exotic cocktails and spicy chili con carne, Buster and June are at each other’s throats. It is here where Julie Walters does what Julie Walters does best, and annihilates every other living creature on screen, every feverish Latino mosquito, every cockroach, Phil Collins, absolutely slays it. Top notch performance as always.

‘Buster’ is not quite a comedy, and not quite a drama (is it a Dramedy?), and I don’t really think it stands up too well when viewed in 2013, in theory an eighties take on the sixties should be quite authentic, but it doesn’t seem that way. I think if remade today it would either be presented as a gritty sub-Guy Ritchie gangster film, or a watered down Richard Curtis romcom. Like Phil Collins, it is a product of its time, when we could process the concept of pop stars as serious actors and accept that a rowing pair of Londoners existed outside of Albert Square.

The real Buster Edwards committed suicide in 1994, it would be wrong to suggest that this film contributed in any way to that act, but it couldn’t have been easy to see a reconstruction of what was likely a difficult part of his life played out on screen by Phil Collins. ‘Buster’ isn’t really seen as a cult classic, or a fondly remembered piece in the pantheon of British cinema, to the extent that a couple of years back they were giving away DVD’s of the film for free in a Sunday newspaper supplement.

– RJW
4/10

Buster on IMDB
Buy Buster [DVD]

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