Harry Gordon (Bob Geldof), known as "Flash" Gordon, may not have a job, but he makes his money gambling as he is pretty talented with a snooker cue. This does not stop him getting into scrapes, as he has a mischievous streak that might see him tying up a noisy player to make sure he doesn't spoil his game, and he has a teenage schoolgirl girlfriend, Sue (Kate Hardie), in spite of regularly enjoying the services of the prostitute who lives across the hall from him, Doreen (Alison Steadman), who adores him but knows she cannot get too close as she cannot entirely trust him. As Harry moves through the criminal underworld, fame and fortune beckon...
Back in the early-to-mid-eighties, the sport second only to football in popularity on British television was snooker, boasting such stars of the green baize as Dennis Taylor, Steve Davis and a certain Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, the Northern Irish player who was rarely out of the tabloids of the day thanks to his antics. It is he who appears to have been the inspiration for Harry Gordon here, down to the showy nickname (why not call him "Flash" Harry? Or is that too St. Trinian's?), with rock star Bob Geldof in the year he became world famous for his Band Aid charity efforts chalking up another starring role, his second and last, after his turn in Pink Floyd The Wall a couple of years before.
This is a lot less depressing than the Pink Floyd effort, in spite of setting out to rub the viewer's nose in rough and ready drama at the beginning, taking up half an hour to set the scene in sequences reminiscent of the eighties T.V show Minder only with more swearing and fewer gags. It presents itself as a gritty slice of life, but then begins to be distracted by the bright lights and glamour of the snooker scene as Harry works his way up from the gutter, which in essence means lots of bits of business with the kind of actor you'd expect to see in this kind of thing. Look, is that Ray Winstone hoving briefly into view? Phil Daniels, is that you? Er, Mel Smith, can it really be your good self?
Smith plays the independent "businessman" Billy Evans who becomes Harry's manager, after a run of shenanigans which have you impatiently waiting for the games to begin. These include getting his car repossessed, stealing Doreen's cash, and getting beaten up for non-payment of gambling debts, all par for the course in a story that quickly leans on clichés. However, once the snooker career takes hold on the plot, things grow a little strange for the purposes of keeping audiences interested in something that threatened to be a few frames depicted as if they were on the telly. In his efforts to spice it all up, screenwriter G.F. Newman runs the risk of making his hitherto realistic as possible scenario look like something out of a sitcom.
Harry climbs his way up the rankings in spite of his bad behaviour, which takes in throwing snooker cues around as if they were javelins when he pots the white for the umpteenth time (surely no professional makes that slip quite as often as he does?), and away from the table, getting into fights with people who aver that the matches are all fixed, people who Harry meets with alarming regularity. This leads to the World Final almost being postponed because the police have him in custody and won't let him go until they beat him at the game, not an occurence which happens often in real life. Something else that doesn't happen often is the one would-be champion chasing the other around the Crucible in Sheffield with a view to giving him a kicking. Actual commentator Ted Lowe appears commendably unruffled, even relishing the mayhem, by which time you feel you might as well be watching a fantasy: something like Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire, for example. Music by David Mackay.