Ever since I watched this week’s Throwback Thirty film I’ve had the song ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’ in my head. You know the one. The Phil Collins song from Disney’s Tarzan movie. I’ve only seen about half of that film but I fucking love that song. It must have been on a Disney compilation album I had when I was younger. It was probably the first time I was aware of Phil Collins as a person. I’d no doubt heard more of his stuff but never known who it was. But I knew it with this song. So, that song has become so intrinsically linked with Phil Collins that I can’t hear his name without it spending days in my head. And those drum beats are bloody memorable. And then there’s the fact that the film’s soundtrack is full of classic Phil Collins songs. So, it’s been a pretty Collins heavy week for me. I definitely need to go and listen to something else as soon as I’ve written this review. And forget this ever happened.
Buster tells the story of one of the minor players in the Great Train Robbery of 1963. Phil Collins plays Buster Edwards, a petty criminal who dreams of a bigger payout. Buster sees his dream coming true after his associate Bruce Reynolds (Larry Lamb) suggest the group rob a Royal Mail train supposedly carrying £1 million. The robbery goes off fairly successfully and the gang end up with around £3 million in cash. Unfortunately, they quickly find themselves on the run after the police find their hideout covered with prints. So Buster, his wife, June (Julie Walters), and their daughter decide to escape to Mexico with Bruce and his girlfriend. But tensions quickly start mounting until June leaves Buster to return home. Will Buster follow his wife and risk getting caught or continue to lie the life of luxury?
I wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect from Buster but I probably didn’t go in with great expectations. I know Phil Collins had quite a run of film roles but it’s not like I’ve got confidence in him as a performer. And, really, I don’t think he was particularly suited for this character. I mean he’s got the cheeky chap vibe down but he never really feels like a master criminal. I know Buster is described as a lucky criminal and not a great one but, considering he’d never been caught, his success must be kind of assumed. The way Collins plays him just makes presents him as a bit of an imbecile. But I guess he is charming. He’s a criminal you want to succeed. You want him and June to get their happy ending with their share of the loot. It’s not necessarily the right takeaway from the Great Train Robbery but it works for Buster.
There is a slight problem throughout the film of the weird tone. There is a sense that criminal behaviour is being romanticised. The robbery itself is kind of underplayed in the film and the men are presented as working class heroes who carry it out without hurting a fly. Although, there are details of the actual robbery that were left out of the narrative such as the violent actions towards the train’s driver. There doesn’t appear to be any criticism towards the men, which is kind of worrying I guess. I know there are plenty of crime capers that romanticise criminals but, considering this was based on real events, it feels as though the tone should have been different.
But, actually, Buster isn’t a film about the Great Train Robbery. It is a film about June and Buster. It’s a romantic-comedy about a man and his wife trying to stay together. And the pair do have alright chemistry together. I’m of the belief that it’s impossible to dislike Julie Walters in anything. She’s an amazing human being and she brings a sweetness to the film. Which is good because it’s not exactly got much else going for it. It’s fun enough but doesn’t feel like it’s situated in reality. Even though we know it is. I can’t say that I was exactly blown away by Phil Collins’s acting debut but it’s still not the worst film that came out in 1988.