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Film review: Restless Natives

3 mins read

This is not your typical review considering the film was released 35 years ago, but after being streamed on the BBC iPlayer a Scottish gem has resurfaced.

Credit: Movie Burner Entertainment

The film was backed by Lloyds Bank after the screenplay won a script writing competition before it was optioned for production.

Restless Natives follows two young unemployed men living in Edinburgh during the early eighties who come up with some quick creative ways to get money. By that I mean they travel to the Highlands to rob buses filled with American tourists.

Whilst there is a concern for the Scottish tourism industry with the rise of crime targeting tourists, the highwaymen antics end up becoming a popular act and boost the industry by 15%.

“This is a hold up” in a superficial Edinburgh accent with a west coast twang becomes a prominent phrase throughout.  Beware you may find yourself on a bus in days to come muttering “this is a hold up” to the confusion of commuters around.

The main characters Ronnie Witherspoon and Will Bryce are not your typical ruthless armed robbers which is where the humour comes in. Just two daft Scottish lads, who are good at heart, dabbling in a life of crime until it gets out of hand.

Whilst Ronnie focusses more on the money and expansion of the business, Will falls for a tour guide, gifting her a bunch of flowers from the speeding motorbike through a bus window. Iconic.

The camera work of Princes Street and the city centre brings a nostalgic view with vintage Lothian Buses, scrappy ford escorts and retro shops that haven’t existed in decades.

Restless Natives was filmed across the capital, Glasgow and the Highlands in the early 1980’s giving the audience a rare glimpse of a very different time. One unknown to those of us under 40.

The daft comedy-heist film is laugh out loud funny and offers an abundance of stunning shots of Scottish scenery.

There is a lot of Scottish humour throughout, dialect that makes the movie. That and some spectacular chase scenes with long shots of their iconic Suzuki motorbike speeding through Edinburgh city centre and Highland Glens is what makes the film cinematic.

Not surprisingly the film performed well at the box office in Scotland but failed to be a hit in other countries. Despite its lack of commercial success back then, it’s now a cult classic that delivers something different in a time where we are consumed by streaming services and new releases.

Restless Natives is available to watch for free on the BBC iPlayer until January 26.

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Film Media and Journalism student at the University of Stirling. Editor in Chief at Brig Newspaper. Edinburgh / Stirling

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