Plunkett And MacLeane

Plunkett And MacLeane

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

An 18th century romp, with powdered wigs and dashing highwaymen, might have stirred The Mask Of Zorro crowd if Brad Pitt and Ewan McGregor were demanding, "Your money or your life." As it is, The Full Monty's Robert Carlyle and the always interesting Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Regeneration) are in charge of blunderbusses, with every thinking teenager's dream date, Liv Tyler, as Lady Rebecca, the blueblood who plasters her walls with pinups of thieves.

Thanks to director, Jake (son of Ridley) Scott, the film is a stylefest, succulently indulgent and mud-splattered, a visual feast that never fails to surprise, even jolt, when modern terminology, with its liberal use of the F-word, is preferred to the more elegant witicisms of Shakespeare In Love's cod repartee.

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Scott is out to blast fresh air through the fusty drawing rooms of costume drama. He does so with conviction, cutting swathes of decorum from the genre's tradition, avoiding farce and the excesses of campology. He treads a narrow line between innovation and exaggeration, occasionally tripping up and falling flat on his face. As a debut, P&M shows spunk and a refreshing lack of respect.

Fans of Robert Carlyle (and there are legion) will be disappointed. Plunkett is a bankrupt apothecary who turns to crime to pay for a ticket to the New World after his wife dies.

He teams up with a penniless doctor's son, Jamie Macleane (Miller), who has the training to impersonate an army Captain in the highest social circles, from where he reports on who has made a killing at the gambling tables, thus fingering P&M's next victim. His role is more flamboyant and romantic. He falls in love with Lady Rebecca, which is forgivable, and she doesn't exactly spit in his eye, while poor Plunkett is left out in the rain, holding the horses. Miller makes the most of this and steals the film from under Carlyle's nose.

In an all-too-tiny a role, Alan Cumming is superb as the dandy, Lord Rochester, and Ken Stott, as a sadistic law enforcer, creates one of the best/worst villains for years.

As for Tyler's Californian intonation, she tries to disguise it, but isn't in Gwyneth Paltrow's class of Anglophilic vowel movers. No matter. Her sultry look and dazzling beauty make amends.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle are would-be highwaymen in 18th Century England.
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Director: Jake Scott

Writer: Jake Scott, Charles McKeown

Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Iain Robertson, Robert Carlyle, Ken Stott, Tommy Flanagan, Stephen Walters, James Thornton, Terence Rigby, Christian Camargo, Karel Polisensky, Neve McIntosh

Year: 1999

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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