Directed by Stephen Frears

Starring Colm Meaney & Donal O'Kelly

"The Van"

Opened: June 13, 1997 | Rated: R

In the recent spate of British films about hard luck in blue collar communities, "The Van" is the one most likely to be forgotten.

Berating Thatcherism in late '80s Ireland, the heroes here are unemployed best friends who start selling burgers and chips out of a broken down van, and eventually come to blows over business sense when they succeed.

Played Colm Meaney and Donal O'Kelly, the friends are just too work-a-day to be of much interest as they plod through the staples of the genre: wives whose support runs hot and cold, unruly broods of children and soccer fans, and the struggle against the urge to slip under a barstool and coast on government redundancy checks.

Shot on the cheap by director Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaisons") and adapted from the last of Roddy Doyle's "Barrytown Trilogy" books, this outing doesn't stand up to the first two installments -- Alan Parker's "The Commitments" and Frears' "The Snapper" -- and falters by employing too many clichés and not enough empathy.

The genre of unwashed nobility standing ground against institutionalized greed is better served in the uplifting "Brassed Off," which plays on many the same clichés but eventually takes them somewhere worth while.

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