Michael Hoffman (director)
01 March 2021 (released)
28 February 2021
This bittersweet Scottish cult comedy from 1985 follows two disillusioned friends from Edinburgh’s Wester Hailes district in their efforts to spice up their humdrum lives by holding up tourist coaches for a giggle. Soon though these latter day highwaymen inadvertently not only become Robin Hood-style anti-heroes but tourist attractions themselves. Shame that fame and notoriety can’t last forever what with the law closing in…
Ronnie (Joe Mullaney) and his romantic best mate Will (Vincent Friell) are two friends who fall increasingly disillusioned with their humdrum existence and with having to scrape by most of the time, what with Will being unemployed and Ronnie working in a joke shop. Fed up – especially Will who tries his best to avoid conversations about his currently non-existent employment status with his well-meaning parents (Bernard Hill and Anne Scott-Jones respectively), the two friends come to the conclusion that enough is enough. After a brief brain-storming session it is decided that wearing a clown- and wolf-man mask, getting on Ronnie’s Suzuki GP 125 motorbike and heading towards the Highlands is a start… not just due to the change of scenery but because it’s the perfect spot to hold up tourist coaches with their toy guns. Of course, a scenario in which tourists hand over prospective booty (pound notes, watches and so on) without any resistance while even the coach driver doesn’t attempt to fight off the wannabe robbers simply beggars belief but then it wouldn’t be a comedy, would it? During the first big occasion one of the coach passengers is American tourist Bender (Ned Beatty) who also happens to be employed by the CIA… well, how much bad luck can you have? Physically overwhelmed by the one of the lads with the help of a toy gun it will not be the last they see of Bender.
Soon the bickering starts with Ronnie being of the opinion that their deeds are justified whilst Will reckons it’s simply wrong to rob taxpayers of their valuables – even if they’re tourists – his point further strengthened after he falls for tour guide Margot (Terry Lally) during one of their hold ups. Meanwhile local police chief Baird (Robert Urquhart) and his two jolly detectives (Lawrie McNicol and Neville Watchurst) join forces with Bender who has decided to interrupt his holiday to help with the investigations… At the same time, Ronnie and Will slowly start to become minor celebrities after their ‘Stop and deliver’ routine turns out to be a big hit with visiting holidaymakers – thus boosting the tourist trade… and Will’s chances of a romance with feisty lass Margot. After another round of bickering, Ronnie (who has conversations with gravestones since he has no family) and Will agree on a compromise: they will continue with their hold-ups but then doling out the money to the poor – just like Robin Hood (or Rob Roy) used to do. Soon the robbers are cheered on by locals while the media tries in vein to identify the two lads behind the masks – prompting a Japanese TV-crew to follow Will and Ronnie around during another tourist coach robbery. Alas, all good things come to an end and when Ronnie falls in with bad boys Nigel (Iain McColl) and Pyle (Mel Smith) tensions between him and Will only deepen although soon our anti-heroes are up to their old tricks again – this time with more success and more media coverage than before. But as we all know, the police are on their tracks in a riotous chase through the streets of Edinburgh and narrow country lanes which culminates in a surprise climax…
Both Friell, Mullaney and Lally (then unknown newcomers) complement each other perfectly while established actors such as Hill, Beatty and Urquhart contribute amply with their talents – even Bryan Forbes and Nanette Newman put in a cameo appearance. Just as important is the specially composed rousing soundtrack by Scottish band Big Country which emphasises the moods of each scene – skilfully photographed by Oliver Stapleton.
The screenplay won a film script writing competition held by Lloyds Bank and the film can be seen as an example of a newly found Scottish identity which had been compromised under Thatcher’s rule – combined with growing unemployment and frustration of mid-1980’s Scottish working class youth who could only dream of breaking free from their grim realities. Thus ‘Restless Natives’ is not just a comedy but has underlying themes which highlight the social and economic blight of the time.
RESTLESS NATIVES has just been released newly restored on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital with the following Extras: Audio commentary, featurettes/interviews, trailers.