Parting Shots

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Parting Shots
Parting Shots 1999 British Quad Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Winner
Produced by Michael Winner
John Blezard (assistant producer)
Timothy Pitt Miller (assistant producer)
Ron Purdie (associate producer)
Written by Michael Winner (story, screenplay)
Nick Mead (screenplay)
Starring Chris Rea
Felicity Kendal
John Cleese
Bob Hoskins
Diana Rigg
Ben Kingsley
Joanna Lumley
Oliver Reed
Gareth Hunt
Nicholas Gecks
Patrick Ryecart
Music by Les Reed
Chris Rea
Cinematography Ousama Rawi
Edited by Michael Winner
Scimitar Films
Michael Winner Ltd.
Distributed by United International Pictures
Release date
  • May 14, 1999 (1999-05-14)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Parting Shots is a 1999 film starring Chris Rea, Felicity Kendal, Oliver Reed, Bob Hoskins, Diana Rigg, Ben Kingsley, John Cleese and Joanna Lumley. It was the last film directed by Michael Winner.

Upon release in the UK, the film gained controversy over its plot, and was widely criticised in the national press.[1] It has since been evaluated as one of the worst films ever made.


Writer and director Michael Winner came up with the basic storyline after a relationship of his had ended. Speaking to BBC's Tim Sebastian in June 1999, Winner revealed: "We all have people we'd like to kill. Sometimes we want to kill them for a long time and sometimes it just lasts the few seconds that they're cutting you up, or being a nuisance. A girlfriend parted very nastily, and I thought 'I really wouldn't mind killing you' and five or six years later I thought, 'I still wouldn't mind.'"[2]

The majority of the cast was chosen personally by Winner, and included friends, those he had worked with professionally before, or other actors/actresses he wished to work with. Early discussions for the lead role suggested Neil Morrissey or Martin Clunes, however when Winner met Chris Rea on a beach at Sandy Lane, Barbados, he was chosen instead.[3]

After filming had come to an end, Winner had told his personal assistant, Dinah May, that Parting Shots was likely to be his last film. Regardless, he had said working with Rea was "a real pleasure" and that he had enjoyed making the film more than any of his past ones.[4]

According to Peter Davison, John Alderton was offered the part of Harry's friend John. Alderton turned it down because of the violence. The part went to Davison instead.


The film concerns Harry Sterndale (Rea), a wedding photographer, who is told by his doctor that he has six weeks to live, and sets out to kill people who have wronged him in his life. He has also paid an assassin named Jamie (Reed) to kill him instead. After setting out on his mission to kill Harry and his new girlfriend Jill (Kendal), Jamie is arrested for assassinating the dictator of a fictional country, and takes the blame for all of the murders that occurred during the film. It ends with Harry, who has been misdiagnosed and isn't terminally ill, and Jill visiting Jamie in prison as newlyweds.



Parting Shots was not well received by critics with Total Film's review describing Winner's work as "offensive", "incompetent" and "bad in every possible way".[5] Andrew Collins gave a strongly negative review of the film: "Parting Shots... is going to set the course of British film-making back 20 years. It is not only the worst British film produced in this country since Carry On Emmannuelle (quite a feat in itself), it is a thoroughbred contender for the crown of Worst Film Ever Made".[6] In a hostile overview of Winner's films, Christopher Tookey claimed "Parting Shots is not only the most horrible torture for audiences that Winner has ever devised. It is also profoundly offensive, even by Winner's standards". Tookey described the film as a failure as a black comedy: "...not only does it lack a sense of humour. It's uniquely repellent. It's rather as Kind Hearts and Coronets might have turned out, had it been directed by Fred and Rosemary West".[7] Tookey also denounced Parting Shots as "the most tasteless, abysmal comedy of all time."[7] Interviewed about Parting Shots, Charlotte O'Sullivan, The Independent's film editor, claimed Parting Shots was "the worst film I've ever seen". O'Sullivan also took issue with the film for glorifying vigilantism: "It's Michael Winner and you know, he doesn't have any sense of irony. He seems to be saying it is okay to go and kill people".[8] The journalist Miles Kington later claimed "Parting Shots...was directed by Michael Winner and despite the glittering cast, was possibly the worst film ever made".[9] In its entry on Michael Winner, the book Contemporary British and Irish Film Directors claimed Parting Shots "makes a bold challenge for the hotly contested mantle of worst British film ever made."[10] British film historian I.Q. Hunter, discussing the question "What is the worst British film ever made?", listed Parting Shots as one of the candidates for that title.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Parting Shots review". 1999-05-14. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  6. ^ Andrew Collins, "How to Shoot a Real Turkey". The Observer, 28 March 1999. Observer Screen, p.6.
  7. ^ a b Christopher Tookey, "Michael Winner's latest film is his most offensive yet". The Daily Mail, 11 May 1999, (p.11).
  8. ^ "Winner's Turkey has a bad aftertaste." The Sunday Herald, 2 May 1999 (p.7)
  9. ^ Miles Kington, "One or two plots to occupy my declining years". The Independent, 3 May 2005, (p.30).
  10. ^ Contemporary British and Irish Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide, edited by Yoram Allon, Del Cullen, and Hannah Patterson. Wallflower Press, 2001, ISBN 1903364213 (p.353).
  11. ^ I. Q Hunter, "From Window Cleaner to Potato Man" in British Comedy Cinema, edited by I.Q. Hunter and Laraine Porter. Routledge, 2012. ISBN 0415666678. (p.154)

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