The Parole Officer

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The Parole Officer
The Parole Officer.jpg
Theatrical poster, featuring supposed quotations from other Coogan comedy characters.[1]
Directed by John Duigan
Produced by Duncan Kenworthy
Andrew Macdonald
Written by Steve Coogan
Henry Normal
Starring Steve Coogan
Om Puri
Steven Waddington
Ben Miller
Emma Williams
Music by Alex Heffes
Cinematography John Daly
Edited by David Freeman
Distributed by DNA Films
Universal Pictures
Release dates 10 August 2001
Running time 93 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £5,998,955[2]

The Parole Officer is a 2001 British comedy film, directed by John Duigan. It was the first feature film to star comedian Steve Coogan. The film follows a diverse group of former criminals as they assist their probation officer in proving his innocence after a murder accusation.


Simon Garden is a well-meaning but ineffectual probation officer. At the beginning of the film, facing a tribunal after a complaint. Who? Only his entire department in Blackpool submit complaint against him, Garden having only had three successes in his career. He is therefore transferred to Manchester. He has hypoglycemia and therefore regularly eats crisps.

In Manchester, he starts his new role and meets an attractive WPC, Emma. Looking into his "juvenile delinquent client", Kirsty's accusation that Class A drugs were planted on her by the officer who'd saved her, DI Burton, he'd followed him into a club.

In the halls, upon seeing Burton, Simon hides and witnesses the strangulation murder of an accountant by corrupt Detective Inspector Burton. 

After he's discovered, is chased from the building by two bouncers and after being cornered, ends up falling into a canal.

However, he has inadvertently left his wallet containing identification at the crime scene and is duly framed for the accountant's murder by DI Burton. Simon goes to the police with the story, where a TV discloses the headless victim was found with Simon,s ID, ending up being interviewed by Burton, who is leading the investigation, releasing Simon, but threatens him with prison unless he keeps quiet about his drugs scam and the murder.

Simon first decides to leave Manchester for good and, feeling down, rejects the offer of a meal from Emma. While away from the city he walks past a shop where the TV in the window happens to be showing an interview with Burton, who will be receiving a bravery award, and also triggers his memory of the murder – he realises that a CCTV camera had filmed the whole event. Realizing that this security tape will clear his name and show that Burton was the real murderer,returning to the club where the murder took place to try and find the tape, only to discover that it has been taken to and placed in a safety deposit box.

Simon sets out to round up his four successful ex-clients.   He visits George in Blackpool and convinces him to join the plan.   They then recruit Jeff, who has been working as a fishmonger, and Colin, who has been working in a computer shop.   They visit the home of the former master-criminal Viktor, only to find his wife and his grave; his wife takes them to Viktor's secret underground workshop and says they can take whatever equipment they want from his extensive selection of technology and safe-cracking kit.

The team gather in Simon's house and set out to devise a cunning plan to retrieve the tape from the bank. One evening they find Kirsty, Simon's first client when he started his new job in Manchester, has broken in and is attempting to steal his television. When she sees what they are doing she asks to join the gang to rob the bank, but Simon says she is too young, telling her she has to leave but she convinces them that she will be small enough to slip through a vent that someone needs to access as part of their heist plan.

The team train together, organise equipment, deploy a computer virus and invent a GOTLER (George-operated time-lock equalising robot).  Over time they bond as a group, have fun together and formulate their plan.  However, one night, DI Burton and several police officers (including Emma) search the house for the severed head of the murdered accountant, so DI Burton has obviously managed to frame Simon and the others ending up in a police cell, Kirsty is taken off by the police, and manages to slip away from them at a garage.   
Simon tries to explain to Emma about the plan to clear his name but, because she feels that he has hidden things from her, she is reluctant to listen. Simon, George, Colin and Jeff are in their cell wondering what to do when the back of a van with "it's kirsty, get in" written on it, crashes through the wall – she has stolen a van and is rescuing them.   They jump in and speed off, with Kirsty at the wheel, determined to try and get to the bank and put the plan into action.

Once there, they sneak onto the roof, their timed viruses activate all of Manchester's alarms and she climbs into the building. Simon uses the robot to deactivate the time locks, yet the code doesn't open the vault door. Distraught at pening the vault, Viktor Omar_Sharif arrives, stating that after the alarm is off, it may open. It does, they collect DI Buton's drug money before Viktor vanishes. Fleeing, Simon realizes they'd forgot the tape, he's denied a spectactular escape by toughened glass windows, getting past Burton's dimwitted assistant, and into the van to escaping by bicycle amidst protestors on bicycles. They finally arrive at the town hall, where DI Burton is earning a bravery award for saving Kirsty from a burning car earlier in the film.

Despite being attacked by Burton's sidekicks, Simon finally proves his innocence by revealing the tape to the public, and Burton is arrested. Amidst the celebrations, Simon and Emma link with each other and kiss.

Despite the title of the film, Simon Garden's character is actually a probation officer


Despite the film being set in Manchester, some of the filming took place in nearby Liverpool.[3][4] Notably, the bank in the film where the heist takes place is the former Bank of England building on Castle Street.[5]


Critical reception[edit]

The film currently has a 67% rating on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[6] Most reviews favourably compared the film to Ealing Studios' heist comedies of the 1950s and 60s, although noted aspects of vulgarity.

For example, Philip French, writing in The Observer stated "The film is mildly amusing and more than competently acted [but] contains very little that's original and nothing that throws any light on contemporary life. Indeed, all that distinguishes Coogan's film from British heist pictures of the 1950s and 1960s is the vulgarity and excursions into grossness."[7] Similarly, Neil Smith, writing for BBC Movies online noted "What follows mixes the light-hearted antics of The Lavender Hill Mob with such high brow gags as Simon chundering on a roller-coaster or disposing of a phallus sculpture in a ladies' loo."

This aspect in particular generated criticism from Alexander Walker, writing in the Evening Standard "It's a bog-standard caper comedy with deviations into gross-out interludes to please the American teens and any dumbed-down Brits."[8] However, Matthew Bond of The Mail on Sunday was more complimentary, stating "It's rude, silly and a midsummer gem."[9]

Derek Elley, writing the Variety was also complimentary, noting "Though much of the film revolves round the persona of Coogan...overall it's more of an ensemble piece than a one-man showcase, and better for it."[10]


  1. ^ Trivia at the Internet Movie Database, URL accessed 29 June 2010
  2. ^ Evening standard review, URL accessed 29 June 2010
  3. ^ Morrison, James (19 August 2001). "Liverpool gets new role as Hollywood of the north". The Independent. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  4. ^ "Film and TV". Liverpool City Council. Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2008. 
  5. ^ "Scouseland on the Silver Screen". BBC. Retrieved 16 February 2008. 
  6. ^ The Parole Office at Rotten Tomatoes, URL accessed 29 June 2010
  7. ^ Philip French, Review in The Observer, Sunday 12 August 2001
  8. ^ Alexander Walker,"The Parole Officer (Cert 12)", Evening Standard August 2001
  9. ^ Matthew Bond, "12.html The Parole Officer review, Mail on Sunday, August 2001
  10. ^ Derek Elley, Review in Variety, 9 August 2001

External links[edit]