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'Lucky Break'

Director tries to work the same magic with 'Lucky Break'

Friday, May 10, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Director Peter Cattaneo struck gold a few years back with "The Full Monty," in which suddenly unemployed steelworkers decided to gamble everything by becoming male strippers in their own one-time benefit show.

 
 
'Lucky Break'

RATING: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references.

STARRING: James Nesbitt, Olivia Williams, Christopher Plummer, Timothy Spall.

DIRECTOR: Peter Catteneo.

WEB SITE: www.luckybreakmovie
.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

He tries to work a parallel vein in his latest movie, "Lucky Break," now at Star City. Jimmy (James Nesbitt) and Rudy (Lennie James) are petty crooks who get caught trying to hold up a bank through sheer incompetence. Sentenced to prison, Jimmy starts feeling claustrophobic almost immediately -- in part because he's always being sent to solitary because of his attitude.

So he hatches a plan to escape. It turns out the governor, or warden (Christopher Plummer), loves musicals so much that he has written one of his own, based on the life of the British naval hero Lord Nelson. Jimmy knows just enough about musical theater to convince the guv to stage the show, using inmates for the cast.

Jimmy cares only that the play would take place in the Old Chapel -- the easiest place from which to break out of the prison. But first he must convince the other cons to go along in what is not universally seen as a macho endeavor. He also pauses to romance the single female employee of the prison, Annabel (Olivia Williams), the pretty anger-management counselor.

"Lucky Break" is yet another notch in the current string of British comedies featuring unlikely characters in quirky situations, many of them set in prison. It also follows the "Full Monty" model in the sense that it focuses on masculine types turning to the sequins of show business to find a solution to their problems.

The difference is that "The Full Monty" let you feel the very real pain and desperation of its characters, deprived of their livelihood and their feeling of self-worth, making their ultimate turnaround all the more sweet and joyous.

The mugs in "Lucky Break," on the other hand, made their own bed. There's only one guy in this prison who probably doesn't belong there, a sad sack played by Timothy Spall who doesn't get the benefit of a happy ending. Jimmy is certainly personable enough, but is there any reason to root for him or to feel any urgency as to whether he succeeds or not?

"Lucky Break" is certainly breezy enough to let the audience escape for a couple of hours. But there's hardly enough substance here to let us think the cup is anything but half full.

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