Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lucky Break (2001) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
You can't beat Ronnie Barker in Porridge for jailhouse laughs. Lucky Break doesn't come close. In fact, it's difficult to know whether it's a comedy at all, or just an entertaining movie about likeable rogues.
Producer/director Peter Cattaneo should have followed the runaway success of his first film, The Full Monty, with something different. This one takes place in prison, which isn't a dole queue in Sheffield exactly, although some might disagree. It's about blokes, who have nothing to do. They think of a plan to improve their lives and then execute it, except this time they dress up in funny clothes, rather than take them off.
The main man is a failed bank robber, called Jimmy Hands (James Nesbitt). He's from Belfast, which makes a change. His pal (Lennie James) is a black South Londoner. Jimmy spends most of the first three months in solitary, because he won't take lip from the screws, or stand by when his cell mate (Timothy Spall) is bullied.
Surprisingly, there is a girl (Olivia Williams), who counsels lags on anger-management and how to behave when re-entering the real world. Jimmy takes a fancy to her (who wouldn't?) and romance simmers beneath the surface of so-called professional conduct.
The plan is to escape, which involves volunteering for the in-house theatrics, an elaborate production of Nelson: The Musical, written by the governor (Christopher Plummer). The counsellor plays Lady Hamilton and Jimmy takes the lead, despite his Irish accent. The rest of the gang have supporting roles, including the only posho on the wing (Leslie Phillips soundalike Bill Nighy), who insists on being King George.
A similar scenario was used in The Colditz Story, except it was funnier then and more exciting. Scriptwriter Ronan Bennett plays a trick on the audience. You could call it a twist in the tail, or you could call it cheating. Either way, it leaves you feeling a fool.
The characters are stereotype, although Spall is so good you forgive him. Also, Plummer shows genuine talent for comedy and Williams proves once again that she is undervalued.
The film is fun, without being funny. Its obvious charm is that the nastier aspects of imprisonment, such as drugs and rape, have been dropped. That leaves only the good things, like friendship and loyalty and musical theatre.Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2001