Lucky Break (2001), Cert 12.

Director - Peter Cattaneo.

Writer - Ronan Bennett.

Starring - James Nesbitt, Olivia Williams, Timothy Spall, Lennie James, Christopher Plummer & Bill Nighy.


Premise - When hapless armed robbery duo, Jimmy 'Hands' (James Nesbitt) and Rudy (Lennie James) are caught on their 'last big job' they are sent down for seven years. When transferred to a new prison the musical obsessed warden (Christopher Plummer) suggest that the cons stage a musical production. Jimmy sees it as prime cover for an escape attempt. The only problem is he has fallen for the prison social worker, Annabel (Olivia Williams).

Lucky Break is director Peter Cattaneo's follow up to the phenomenally successful 'The Full Monty'. This didn't exactly fill me with confidence as I am certainly not the worlds biggest Full Monty fan. I found 'Monty' to be severely lacking and whilst it wasn't terrible, I was left wondering why people thought it was such a good film. I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Lucky Break and certainly prefer it to Cattaneo's previous effort.

The story and characters are nothing new, but Ronan Bennett's sharp script and some excellent performances raise the film above standard British comedy fare.

Most impressive is James Nesbitt. He is best known for Britain's answer to Friends, 'Cold Feet'. A show, admittedly which I have never watched, but based on his performance here he should probably think about leaving the lowly world of UK television and make a stab at the movies. His turn as the 'loveable con with a heart', Jimmy Hands is excellent, he oozes a roguish quality that is rounded off nicely by his thick Irish brogue.

The perfect foil to this rogue is Olivia Williams (Whom I last saw as the object of Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray's affection in the sublime 'Rushmore'), who gives an outstanding performance as the uptight prison social worker. She and Nesbit practically melt the screen when they are together the chemistry is that hot. The film really benefits from the work that these two do, I would love to see them do another film together.

Christopher Plummer gives a deliciously over the top performance as the prison warden. He's not a hard-ass like you see in most prison movies, but a guy who's getting near retirement. He sees a perfect opportunity to fulfil one of his life's ambitions, to produce an amateur stage musical. I always enjoy seeing Plummer in a film and since he is playing it for laughs it makes for a pleasant change.

Elsewhere of note is Britflick stalwart Timothy Spall as the 'innocent' con, Lennie James as Jimmy's partner in crime and Bill Nighy in a very funny turn as a crooked, poncy stock broker.

As I said Bennett's script is sharp with some real poingant moments to nicely balance out the mirth. I especially liked Timothy Spall's charcaters moments with his family. The final stage musical set-piece is very well written and is expertly directed by Cattaneo. He takes various plot threads that seem destined to go nowhere and deftly weaves them into a satisfactory conclusion that doesn't feel forced or overly syrupy. He really racks up the tension as the musical is intercut with the escape attempt, it's quality stuff.

Alas, all is not perfect however. I found large parts of the film to be just too unrealistic. Sure, it's a comedy set in a prison, but I would have liked to see a bit of grit and grime. The prison was too clean and all the cons seemed, well too nice. The 'con with a heart of gold' routine is an old one and the film makes no attempt to expand on this idea at all.

Also for your money you get a hard-ass screw, the psycho con and the nice inmate who can't take it any longer. Name any prison movie cliché and I guarantee you will find it in Lucky Break.

I shouldn't be too hard on the film though because there is much to enjoy here, it's a perfectly amiable comedy that has a satisfying ending and blistering chemistry between the leads. Recommended.


6/10 for Lucky Break.

Poster Quote - You should be so lucky.