Blackball
(2003)

SHORT VERSION:
Cliff and Ray defeat the Doohan brothers from Australia in a very close game, handing the brothers their first loss in seven years, and their victory essentially makes them the top lawn bowls team in the world. After the game, Cliff reconciles with his friend Trevor, his girlfriend Kerry, and his grandfather Mutley, and he tells Mutley that he is thinking about opening up a lawn bowls school.

LONG VERSION:
Cliff (Paul Kaye) gets carried away with being the “Bad Boy of Bowls” and following the advice of his sleazy manager Rick (Vince Vaughn), which results in him alienating his best friend Trevor (Johnny Vegas). Then, upon seeing that Cliff and Kerry (Alice Evans) are in a romantic relationship, Rick quickly comes to view Kerry as an unnecessary distraction for Cliff and cooks up a scheme to get her out of the picture. He first sows dissention between her and Cliff by hiring a photographer to get a photo of them getting intimate and then getting it published in the tabloids, and then he meets with Kerry in a restaurant a couple of days later and makes it out like he is dumping her on Cliff’s behalf.

The tabloid photo also has negative implications for Kerry’s father (and Cliff’s rival) Ray (James Cromwell): After seeing an article with the photo at a banquet at the Royal Torquay Bowls Club and cussing out loud, the club’s officials – who have been offered two multi-million-pound deals to overturn the ban Ray had earlier placed on Cliff and match him against the world-rated team of Kyle and Mark Doohan (Mark Dymond & Mark Little) from Australia – kick him out over that, giving them the opening to reinstate Cliff as county champion so he can represent England. The disheartened Ray shuts himself into his home and changes the locks, forcing Kerry to lodge with Trevor the same night of her meeting with Rick.

During all of this, Cliff is brought down to Earth when he finds his grandfather Mutley (Bernard Cribbins) in the bathroom of his new penthouse unconscious in the tub with a busted knee, after he took a spill off of his ladder while decorating it. At the hospital, Cliff finds out that Rick had wanted the place ready for Cliff a week early, and he feels guilty over not being there to hold the ladder for Mutley, which he usually did for him. This starts to mess with his head and ruin his game. Then, at a press conference he is having the day after Kerry started staying with Trevor, Trevor appears and tells Cliff that Kerry had told him about how he had Rick dump her for him. Cliff angrily confronts Rick, and after he admits that he had gotten rid of Kerry, Cliff fires him.

That night, he heads to Ray’s house to apologize to Kerry, but Ray angrily attacks him. After getting him to calm down, Cliff demands to know why he gives him a hard time for coming from a poor neighborhood. Ray informs him that he actually came from the same poor neighborhood Cliff came from and says that his bowling game got him out of it, and he didn’t like Cliff because he felt that he has been sullying the game with his behavior and actions and will probably discard it just like he probably did to Kerry. He finds Kerry at the pub where she works, but while trying to patch things up with her, he discovers on the TV in there that Rick had made Ray his teammate against the Doohans just before he sacked him. Disillusioned with everything, Cliff tosses his personal set of bowls into the town harbor. The Royal Torquay Club then reinstates Ray after the deals are under threat of being taken off the table if Ray doesn’t participate, and Mutley convinces Ray to play by telling him he is a world class player and he should be brave and play for his country for once.

Because their heads and hearts and not completely into the match, Cliff and Ray take a beating from the Doohans in the first half and trail 17-0. After getting into an argument with Ray just before intermission, Cliff leaves the building to play the claw crane at his favorite diner. Kerry – who was watching the game at her workplace – heads down to the arcade, knowing he would be there, but just as she is trying to talk him into returning to the match to help her father, Ray walks past them, having given up as well. Kerry reminds them both that they have given up everything for the sport, so they couldn’t possibly have anything left to lose now. Motivated, Cliff retrieves his bowls from the harbor, and he and Ray return to the match just before the Doohans can be awarded the victory via forfeit.

Cliff and Ray make a roaring comeback (and Kerry, Trevor, and Mutley manage to get into the arena to watch the proceedings) and the game ends with a tie at 17 all, forcing an extra end. The end is done in the form of the “Thunderbowl”, where the team that rolls their bowl closest to the jack wins the match. Kyle rolls his bowl and it touches the jack, and Ray decides to let Cliff throw their last bowl. After seeing that Cliff is gearing up to fire the bowl down the pitch to split the Doohans’ bowl and the jack, Ray stops him and advises him to go for an in-swinger instead. Cliff makes a huge in-swinger, and his bowl touches the Doohans’ bowl but not the jack. However, with a little utterance of “come on” from himself and Ray, their bowl nudges the Doohans’ bowl aside and gets closest to the jack, giving Cliff and Ray the win and handing the Doohans their first defeat in seven years and essentially making them the top lawn bowls team in the world.

Amidst the celebrating, Cliff mends his fences with Trevor and Kerry. Later, he finds Mutley walking back home and apologizes to him as well, and offers to come back and work for him again while also telling him that he is thinking about opening up a lawn bowls school.

Thanks Tornado Dragon!