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Lucky Break

YOU can bank on robberies and bungled heist raids for being a favourite subject matter for low-budget British comedies.

Lucky Break

YOU can bank on robberies and bungled heist raids for being a favourite subject matter for low-budget British comedies.

Already Steve Coogan's 'The Parole Officer' has used this setting to maximum security effect as a box-office draw.

Now comes a 'feel good' tale of hapless crooks. Notably the two caught red-handed in an appallingly bad botch-up who find themselves sent down to jail yet again.

Their aim from day one is to get out on day two, and the audience is with them. Even Alcatraz had more charm in its heyday than the fictitious but fully depressing prison HM Long Rudford where we meet the denim clad philosophers from the violent to the apathetic.

Life (despite the fact they only got 12 years) isn't easy in the 'clink' 'nick' or 'slammer' as it dis-affectionately called.

Like the Ronnie Barker series 'Porridge', director Peter Cattaneo, who gave us 'The Full Monty', shows the intensity, desperation, isolation but also the humour of jail life.

It is the first real starring vehicle for James Nesbitt as streetwise hardman with a conscience Jimmy Hands. He is aided by Lennie James as the optimistic Rudy.

Nesbitt, playing another endearing Irishman, strolls through the film's script with all the confidence of his alter ago Adam in three series of Cold Feet.

He is joined by an all-star cast: the always watchable Bill Nighy, Timothy Spall and Christopher Plummer

The plot is formula-led and set on the all-encompassing Ealing Comedy template of structured script and clever plot.

The inmates will succeed: They know the only way out is through an unused church hall and they will escape by hook and by crooks.

To implement their plan however they have to put on a musical written by the frustrated writer and governor rolled into one - played with relish by Christopher Plummer.

His unperformed musical Nelson is itching to be made into an Am Dram production with a captive audience guaranteed.

And so, while using the nautical story as a backdrop, our anti-heroes set sail for a thrilling voyage.

Along the way, however, arts worker Annabel Sweep (Olivia Williams) offers a sort of romantic parole for Jimmy. But will it last?

There's a fine performance from ever-reliable Timothy Spall as long-haired Cliff Gumbell who has been framed and is constantly bullied by an evil warder.

Meanwhile, the musical Nelson isn't all that bad in a bad taste sort of way - and that's due to the composer Stephen Fry's contribution aided by Anne Dudley's orchestral skills.

It's a well-rounded film with likeable characters swimming too deep into uncharted waters.

It shows that crime doesn't pay - although it does bring in a high interest rate when it comes to movies.

'Lucky Break' has all the earthy charm of 'The Full Monty' but the penal uniforms stay firmly on.

It may be not be the most polished British film of the year but is packed full of good gags and observations.

Sentence yourself to 108 minutes in this company of thieves.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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