Cliff Starkey (played by Paul Kaye), is a rebellious young bowls player. He dreams of playing for his country but always preferring to play by his own rules, was always disapproved by the local bowls club. After winning the local competition, he is subsequently banned from competing in the sport for fifteen years by Ray Speight (James Cromwell), the head of the local lawn bowls association, for writing an expletive on an opponent's scorecard. Picked up by sports agent Rick Schwartz (Vince Vaughn), Starkey is rebranded as the "bad boy of bowls", turning the normally sedate sport into a glitzy, in your face competition. He and Speight take on Australia's unbeaten Doohan brothers in "The Ashes", a one off tournament in a custom made bowls arena in Torquay. They make a comeback thanks to Speight's experience and Starkey's extravagance, while Cliff also bends the rules to the maximum to force the game into extra time, much to the disbelief of Carl and Mark Doohan.
Starkey's confidence, due to Speight's concentration and the power of the black balls, leads the film to an exciting finale with the Doohan brothers.
In addition to the main charactering being modelled after Griff Sanders, the film also spoofs Bjørge Lillelien's infamous commentary from Norway's 2-1 defeat of England at football in 1981. The first movie based on this theme was David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Fantasy Football League, and the other commentator for the match was Angus Loughran, who played 'Statto' on Fantasy Football.
Blackball was filmed on the Isle of Man and Torquay during October and November 2002. It was released on DVD on 16 February 2004. Various internet games were created in promotion of the movie.
Crackerjack an Australian bowls based film that pre-dates Blackball has been described in some circles as the true inspiration for the English version.