Rory O’Hara, a successful British commodity trader, is lured back to London from New York by the opportunities to make yet more money which he is convinced will arise from the deregulation of the UK financial markets in the 1980s. Is a modern audience more disturbed by his wife’s incessant smoking, or by his cavalier chauvinism in expecting her to give up her riding school job, not to mention the disruption to the lives of their two children?
We gradually realise that charming, fast-talking Rory is putting on an act to persuade would-be clients. Out of his depth trying to negotiate business mergers, relying too heavily on income he has yet to receive, his spending is out of control: renting a vast, dark and frankly creepy country house; getting a riding school built for his wife; sending his son to a posh school without noticing how he is being bullied there, and so on.
He is slow to grasp that financial deregulation does not mean the freeing up of class-ridden British society, which perhaps he has half-forgotten after his years in the more informal States where it is simply money that counts. The source of his driven personality becomes clearer when he pays a visit to the mother he hasn’t seen for years and we understand that he comes from an impoverished background, brought up in a rundown council flat.
Operating on different levels, this film is hard to judge, with often disjointed scenes: one minute it is a comedy, with Rory’s wife puncturing his phoney spiel at a business dinner; at another, it is a horror film in the dark, possibly haunted house; camera work at odd angles with some striking images make it an art film, and so on. The acting is generally good and if Jude Law sometimes seem to be overdoing it, that is part of his image, and his problem. Overall, there are some powerful or moving scenes, so that if the film does not quite work, it is due to the way they are linked.