Written & Directed By
Gareth Lewis (yes Damian Lewis' brother)
Damian Lewis ... Milo
Kate Ashfield ... Rhiannon
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ... Bjorn
Michael Gambon ... Leo
Annette Badland ... Martha
Aimee Cowen ... Checkout Girl
Gwenno Dafydd ... Mrs. Edwards
Dyfan Dwyfor ... Eggs
David Garfield ... Griff
Michael Geary ... Dai
Brian Hibbard ... Bob
Philip Howe ... Gareth Llewellyn
Margaret John ... Anne Jones
Rhodri Meilir ... Owain
Anthony O'Donnell ... Rhys
Robert Page ... Stan
Laurence Richardson ... Businessman
Nicholas Rowe ... Businessman
Boris the Sheep ... Himself
Steve Speirs ... Bryn
Dorien Thomas ... Old Williams
Dyfed Thomas ... Huw Edwards
William Thomas ... Alun
Valerie Vaughan-Williams ... Mrs. Thomas
Simon Winkler ... Bodyguard
Gareth Wyn Griffith ... Fish & Chip Man
"A hit man has second thoughts about his career and seeks refuge from his boss by finding work as a baker in a rural Welsh village."
Not really accurate. More like "A disillusioned professional hitman named Milo could no longer kill and was therefore on the run from his organisation. He sought refuge in a small Welsh village arranged by his mentor/friend, Leo and after he was mistakenly identified as the new baker in town he opened a bakery in disguise and realised he loved baking despite being not very good at it and whilst there found love with a local vet, Rhiannon, met quirky villages who have their own personal agendas whilst avoiding an assasination attempt by fellow hitman Bjorn who harbours a deep feeling for Milo."
And that is the entire movie's synopsis actually.
My fascination with this movie is simply a result of my fascination with Damian Lewis, an actor whom I have always liked but has never really seen his other works other than Band Of Brothers, Dreamcatcher, Much Ado About Nothing and the TV series, Life which I shall credit for reigniting my interest in this actor. Not that I was ever not interested in him. It just that between Dreamcatcher (a movie that I really liked eventhough I really shouldn't since it wasn't that great), Much Ado About Nothing (which I really loved) and Life, I missed out on a lot of his recent works and news on his personal life. He is now a father of 2, married to an even more respected fellow British actress who seems to share a similar background as him but certainly not as famous worldwide and has acted in TV movies, stage and of course some movies that frankly I can't name since I am oblivious to how much has occured since... well since Much Ado About Nothing. Like Daniel Craig, I don't know much about Damian Lewis, I didn't even know his real voice/accent (Much Ado About Nothing notwithstanding) prior to some digging at youtube. What I found in Youtube both amazed and shocked me. His posh upper English accent, his voice somewhat different from his acting voice and his shocking red hair. I know he has red hair but it still shocks me how red it actually is. I found clips of him playing golf, reciting poems for BBC's Essential Poems and of course hosting a comedy/political satarical show Have I Got News For You where he was basically hammered by a regular on the show which was very funny to watch. And through all these clips I realised why I like him so; he is not exceedingly handsome, with a mouth that is too small, a face that is too long, hair that is too red and yet his face grows on me probably because the camera loves him. He has a photogenic and classical look, those that belong to the old glamourous Hollywood of the 1940s. He has in fact a very distinguished look that even when he played villains, you will somehow empathise with his villain. And he is charismatic. You just somehow have to look at him.
So when I found out about The Baker, a highly acclaimed movie written and directed by his own brother and won some awards that I am not very familiar with, I went hunting for it and couldn't find it. But it is popular enough to be ripped and uploaded as a torrent so I suppose there are torrent uploaders who like the odd less popular movies out there. Downloaded it and took a few days to actually sit down in front of my computer and actually watch it. How was it?
You can call it quirky. In fact it aims to be quirky, like those oddball quirky small British films, not unlike The Full Monty regrettably without the full monty if you know what I mean. It is far far away from those big Hollywood blockbuster or even comedies, so if you ask me to describe it, I can only say quirky. I can't find another word for it because even the soundtrack, with background music playing at the right time just makes it feel, sound, look and spell quirky. What is quirky? "Strikingly unconventional" as defined by the online thesaurus. Quite apt.
I didn't know any of the actors in this movie except for the obvious and Michael Gambon but the actress who played Rhiannon was very familiar and some digging tells me she is the lead actress in one of my most favourite movies of all time, Shaun Of The Dead. The way she talked with that perpetual frown on her face tipped me off so yes, I know 3 and the rest I am not familiar with although I won't be surprised if I have seen them somewhere before since the British film industry is very small.
Back to the movie. How was it you may ask?
Frankly, in all honesty and with a heavy heart I have to say it is not as good as you may think it is but am quite pleased to say it is not as bad as some online reviews said. Basically it is mediocre, with a possibility that it could have been so so so so much better but somehow falls flat. If you watch it with high expectations you will be very much disappointed but if you watch it without much expectations you might actually enjoy it. I watched it for Damian Lewis and in that respect I enjoyed it. But since I can dissect a movie into several parts that can be assessed seperately without having to look at the other parts, which is something I am pretty good at, I have to say overall the movie falls flat on expectations because there are more bad than good.
For example, the story itself.
It starts off with Milo, a professional hitman who has had it with being a professional hitman. He wants an ordinary life, he wants love, a family, friends, a permanent place in this world. So he botches a hit job and had to make a run for it. His organisation sends Bjorn, a fellow hitman after him. With the help of his friend Leo who is supposedly in retirement (I suppose he was a former hitman himself with the same organisation) he went to hide in a small Welsh village. He was mistaken as the new baker because someone saw him walking out of the closed bakery but one young man, Eggs saw him burying a suitcase full of guns so Eggs knew and Eggs told everyone else who in turn tried to hire Milo to kill off someone by a cryptic order of chocolate cake which Milo genuinely thought it was an order for chocolate cake when an old henpecked husband who runs a fish shop ordered chocolate cake (a cryptic order to kill his nagging wife) and his wife died in an explosion through no help from Milo. Mistaken identity kinda storyline.
Pause here for a moment. There is no background for Milo. I don't know him and in the end I still do not know him. I suppose some storyline are not meant to be detailed and one can assume that Milo had no family since he is such a lonely guy seeking love. But there is actually no background whatsoever for Milo. This movie opens with the assumption that the viewers will assume all the assumptions. It is built on assuming certain facts so a little suspend of your logical deductions here. I have no problem with assumptions since decades of watching TVB series with its illogical plots especially with detective dramas has built in my mind an ability to make assumptions and believe in them. So whenever a movie opens with a character that has no past, I have no problem with it. Moreover Damian Lewis' performance had me believe in my own assumptions; Milo is probably an orphan, Milo is probably very good at his job but is fed up with the loneliness, the secrecy, Milo probably has had a few relationships before but probably all failed because of the confidentiality clause, Milo now is very stressed because he feels he is burning out and he is having a career and personal crisis.
My problem with the story begins when he reaches the village. There is the present and there is no need for assumptions anymore since the character begins the journey as the story begins. Here the movie tries to capitalise on its quirkiness by introducing various characters that just either spell weird or quirky. Since hiring someone to kill your wife/neighbour/competitor is not really that quirky, I suppose weird is more like it. The problem with the quirky/weird characters is that none of them are endearing. I find them all a bit of a loser, those who simply failed in life. Even the henpecked husband who wants his wife dead. I don't find his wife annoying enough, in fact I find the husband more annoying than the wife. There's the Shakespeare quoting guy who well is the Shakespeare quoting guy. Many other characters but none has more screentime than the young man,Eggs who was the first to know of Milo's true identity and admired him for it. Again an assumption; this boy has no parents or maybe good influence from a parent so he look to Milo as his big brother, admiring him and hoping to emulate him. The problem is I find this boy annoying as well. Towards the end there is supposed to be a comraderie between Milo and Eggs, an unspoken bond between brothers I suppose but I don't feel that. In fact towards the end the villagers actually banded together to save Milo, after a speech by I think Eggs who questioned why the villagers forsaken their loyalty for one another and became such strangers. But never had at any point in this movie had the villagers ever been friendly or brotherly like with one another. From the get go we see a neighbour destroying the garden of the other neighbour so that speech questioning theor brotherly love for one another is misplaced. This is a village where everybody is pretending to be nice to the other. Anyway, maybe it shouldn't have been that case or maybe the director was trying to show a change in attitude thanks to Milo. And that is what makes it fall flat. It all just feel underdeveloped, like more could have been done but yet so little was actually achieved.
But none is worse than the forced romance between Rhiannon and Milo. From how they met to her very inquisitive mind, asking him all sorts of questions. Is inquisitive the new cute? She is supposed to be cute right? I suppose that is supposed to spark Milo's interest in this woman seemingly so interested in him. Frankly I didn't even know her name until towards the end. And it is not difficult for Milo to fall for her, since she is like the only young available pretty female in the village. The rest are old white men with old white women. I am not bringing in the race issue but it is merely to describe, not really to criticise. Anyway with one pretty young female in the village, it is not hard to conclude "yep, she's the one". And between knowing one another and asking her out on a date, in between not enough is done to show the attraction. I just find them like 2 strangers suddenly agreed to go on a date and on the 1st date, they had wild messy sex in the kitchen of the bakery with Eggs, drunk after wrongly assuming he assassinated a villager. And even the sex scene seems forced with eggs, butter, jam and flour involved with the act of sex of course. I just find the scene un-sexy when it should have been. I don't feel the romance, I don't feel the attraction and frankly I find Rhiannon a very boring annoying character. If inquisitive beautiful women are attractive, yes I get it. But she lacks one thing that makes a pretty inquisitive woman attractive; personality. The actress, Kate Ashfield is perpetually frowning. It didn't help her face registered the emotive range in the negatives. She could stand there and I still wouldn't notice her. Same in Shaun Of The Dead, same here. Worse here actually since her role is very badly written and really underdeveloped.
Even Michael Gambon is underused here. His character again is built on assumptions and in the end he could be played by anyone who has 10 minutes to spare. Who is Leo? I don't know and I don't care.
The character of Bjorn is interesting because he is possibly the funniest in here. He has little screentime but whenever he appeared, there are subtexts; from his gentle stroking of Milo's face on the screen to his preference of sausages which lingers in his mouth before he takes a bite, to his often referred location, Amsterdam, under the bridge had me in stiches. Milo had to keep reminding him what he was thinking of was impossible. Although the movie never really said it loud and clear, it is obvious Bjorn harbours a feeling deeper than that of a fellow colleague for Milo and Milo knows it. What happened in Amsterdam? No one knows so I suppose Bjorn waited for Milo under the bridge in Amsterdam or somewhere near a bridge but Milo never showed up, thus breaking his heart. Quite touching actually.
One character that is most developed in this movie and still feels underdeveloped is of course Milo. Like I said, many assumptions have to be made and if you push aside your doubts, Milo is a pretty interesting character. A hitman who wants to be a baker? How far removed from his old job is that? Trading guns for a spatula? Machine guns for a blender? Bullets for chocolate chips? That in itself makes the entire premise quirky. A pity not much of actual development of the character is put into the script itself.
The story and Kate Ashfield aside, the performances in this movie is what make this movie enjoyable.
Leading the pack is of course Damian Lewis, probably the reason why this movie was made successfully in the first place. Damian Lewis can be funny, he can be witty, he can even look so boyishly charming in a very earnest way which is why I can't help but like Milo. Well there is nothing not to like about Milo actually. Damian has this likeability factor in him and everytime he is on screen, he takes up the entire screen. His presence is all consuming, that sometimes a pity to his co-stars standing next to him because probably no one will notice them. His performance is top notch and is only hampered by the underdeveloped script and his underdeveloped character.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Bjorn is very effective in this role. His Bjorn comes across as a lovelorn jilted lover who can be quite manic sometimes. Very little screentime but is probably the best character in this movie other than Milo.
The rest are competent and effective in their respective roles despite the fact that all are not very well written. Seen in a good way you can call them underdeveloped characters. But honestly speaking I feel they're more badly written than underdeveloped.
Frankly I do not know what is wrong with this movie. For a comedy, it is not that funny. It is long, as in the standard length for a movie and yet so much wastage, so much underdeveloped characters eventhough so little plot. It is like a movie with bad time management and whilst the potential is there, perhaps something went wrong in the editing room. Somehow the entire movie comes across as half-baked (pun is intended).
The one fully baked part is of course the background music that gives this movie a personality that it badly needs and which helps to define it as quirky. I like the music, comes during the right moment and ends at the right moment albeit a bit too loud sometimes.
A pity the movie itself doesn't have that perfect timing, comic, drama or otherwise.
Good for a boring rainy Sunday and of course Damian Lewis' fans if you can ignore all the question marks.
For more pictures and screencaps, try this website, The Bakery. Look for Gallery > Movies > The Baker. Check out the other high resolution candid and photoshoots too! Excellent website, lacking only in nice wallpapers.