2005 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

An illegal Mexican immigrant and footballing prodigy finds himself on the hallowed turf of Newcastle's St James' Park via Los Angeles in this first division footballing yarn. Kuno Becker is the pool cleaner-turned-premiership player and the love interest is provided by Anna Friel as the club nurse. Look out for cameos from Alan Shearer and David Beckham in this enjoyable run-out.

Director

  • Danny Cannon

Cast

  • Kuno Becker

  • Alessandro Nivola

  • Anna Friel

  • Sean Pertwee

  • Marcel Iures

  • Stephen Dillane

Review

The football-based drama is one of the most difficult themes to pull off - remember Escape to Victory. Actually, don't. Try to forget it.

That this succeeds is largely down to a first class script from comedy team Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and the fast-moving direction of Danny Cannon.

Mexican "wetback" Santiago Munez (Becker) is scraping out a dirt-poor existence in LA, squeezing in the odd game of footy (he has to use an old cardboard box for shinpads).

During a game on a dusty ballpark, he's spotted by former Magpies professional and talent scout Glen Foy (Dillane), who arranges a trial with Newcastle United.

After somehow scraping together the air-fare, he finds his try-out a baptism of mud and bone-crunching tackles...which isn't helped by his LA smog-induced asthma.

Things aren't looking good...until he's taken under the wing of playboy striker Gavin Harris (Nivola) and catches the eye of pretty club nurse Roz (Friel).

Despite panning out with a Roy of the Rovers predictability and a certain "jumpers for goalposts" sentimentality, this scores pretty highly as far as the genre goes.

Becker is a winning character, displaying naivete off the field and abundant confidence on, while Friel - all Geordie accent and micro-skirts - appears to the Bigg Market born.

There's brief but affecting references to Munez's relationship with his proud father and the downside of overpaid celebrity is also touched on.

But where this really comes to life is on the pitch thanks to high levels of co-operation from Newcastle and skilfully shot action sequences in front of the St James' faithful.

It's also one of the few films to make full use of Newcastle's stunning skyline and the contrast between the old port and the party city.

It could - and probably will be - the Magpies best performance all season.

Tim Evans