Opinion

Fool Me Once is unfocused but fun – and left me with my gob open, trying to keep up

Lucy Sweet was expecting a slow start to 2024. The new Michelle Keegan-starring drama had other ideas

Michelle Keegan as Maya in Fool Me Once.

Michelle Keegan as Maya in Fool Me Once. Image: Matt Squire/Netflix © 2023.

It’s only been 2024 for about five minutes and we’ve had a 16-year-old darts champion who doesn’t look a day over 46, Barry Keoghan doing unspeakable things to plugholes, and Diane from The Traitors, who is now a gay icon from the top of her voluminous gingery head right down to the bottom of her Karrimor gilet.  

I’m exhausted already. I think I was expecting what marketing types like to call a ‘soft launch’ this year. Maybe a few weeks of de-escalation from the high-pitched horrors of 2023? A few cups of herbal tea, perhaps, and some nice cosy episodes of Winterwatch?  

(Or maybe not. I just googled Winterwatch and was met with the screaming headline ‘OUTRAGE OVER DEAD DEER FOOTAGE.’ Viewers are up in arms, with one saying: “Trying to eat my dinner and a rotting dead deer carcass is shown on Winterwatch being eaten by a greedy fox. Lovely bit of viewing to turn me off my tea.”)  

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Yes, it looks like along with its friends 2020-23, 2024 is going to be another unpredictable year filled with WTF energy that may possibly put us off our food. So we may as well embrace it. And what better way to do that than to join *checks I’m not hallucinating* Michelle Keegan as an ex-military helicopter instructor in Fool Me Once

It seems that Stockport’s finest has landed herself a Hollywood action hero job in this splashy adaptation of Harlan Coben’s bestselling airport thriller, and it’s so preposterous that I can’t really describe it.  

Instead, I’m just going to tell you the general things I’m seeing on the screen, like a traumatised child making a picture from fuzzy felt. Keegan plays Maya, who has served in Iraq and has flashbacks while she’s sitting in her large and well-appointed kitchen, or tending to her giant toddler Lily, who is about the same height as she is.  

She is also grieving her dead sister and her husband, who was shot by two robbers on bikes while they walked in a park. OR WAS HE?? Well, we don’t know. It looks like it, but then her friend comes round to give her a digital photo frame with a secret camera in it (a normal thing that happens all the time) and it records him with giant Lily, even though he’s meant to be dead. Also, there’s the small matter of Maya owning a Glock which she hides in her utility room – the same gun that killed her sister.

Then there’s Joanna Lumley as Maya’s mother-in-law, Judith. She lives in a stately home and does that offended flared nostril face only Queen Joanna can do, like someone eating a deer carcass lasagne. It turns out that two of her sons have mysteriously died in mysterious circumstances, and she’s also the kingpin of Burkett Industries, a ubiquitous and shady Halliburton-style company. 

Also, a hapless detective (Adeel Akhtar) is on Maya’s case, but he’s got something wrong with him which is causing him to black out and crash his car into fences. Is he in league with the Burketts? Honestly, poor Maya barely has time to run her helicopter training school what with all the weird shenanigans going on!  

Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the sofa with my gob open, trying to keep up. Luckily, there is so much clunky exposition in every scene that even if I went to Iraq and back in one of Maya’s helicopters, I wouldn’t miss a thing. Of course, it’s also lots of fun in a hysterical, unfocused and very 2024 kind of way. Keegan does an admirable job of looking harassed, shooting guns and running around a lot in leggings, and the kitchens are to die for. But the most baffling aspect of it is: how come Tina from Corrie is doing all this? Was everyone in America off sick when they cast it?  

Fool Me Once is streaming on Netflix.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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