There was a lot of publicity circling this film whilst it was being produced, with interviews on mainstream chat shows and the like, but then it failed to get a cinema release and very quietly turned up on video. Which should have been warning enough, but many years ago on a dull Sunday afternoon with little else to choose I rented this absolute pile of trash out of my local video shop. And proceeded to waste an hour and a half of my life.
Based on the best selling novel by Kathy Lette, Mad Cows tells of an Australian woman (Friel) attempting to win the love of her life back (Greg Wise, looking nervous and out of place throughout), but who then is arrested for shoplifting, sent to prison, tricked in to giving her child up for adoption and then forced to escape, find her child and Wise again. It’s a pretty basic plot and you’d have thought they could have mined something at least vaguely interesting out of it, but oh no, the opposite annoyingly occurs.
Almost so bad that it’s good, but not quite, the film’s plot moves at such a fast pace that it’s very easy to lose track of what is actually going on, especially if you find yourself bored and uninterested in the film’s events as much as I did. Anna Friel’s often fantastic and was especially superb in Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies, but in Mad Cows she’s perhaps the most irritating lead character that British film has ever seen, selfish, whining throughout and completely unsympathetic. Joanna Lumley remains hopelessly stereotyped as a piece of rich totty and gives exactly the kind of performance you’d imagine, and Greg Wise, well, he’s so awful that at the time I thought it was doubtful he’d ever work again after such a terrible attempt at acting and I’m amazed he’s gone on to have the career that he has.
There’s also a collection of rather tragically acted cameo’s in the film, including appearances from Mohammad Al Fayed, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Jodie Kidd, Rustie Lee and Noel Gallagher, which in attempting to make the film seem hip, cool and modern results in just making it even more absurd and has dated it horrendously. The film also wastes the talents of normally decent actors like Eddie Marsen, Prunella Scales, Phyllida Law and Nicholas Woodeson, and I can only presume all have removed this gigantic mess from their acting cv’s, to not do that would be madness.
Apart from the misjudged script and weak efforts of the cast the biggest problem with Mad Cows is that it’s all so ludicrous and unbelievable. Friel being sent to prison for just stealing a pack of frozen peas is ridiculous, and her escape from prison even more so. None of the characters are remotely believable, or likeable for that matter, and the supposedly stylish camerawork only serves in making the film look even more nonsensical. Combined it’s an embarrassment, and is easily a candidate for one of the worst films of all time.