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With: James Nesbitt, Timothy Spall, Lennie James, Bill Nighy, Olivia Williams, Christopher Plummer
Written by: Ronan Bennett, based on a book by Stephen Fry
Directed by: Peter Cattaneo
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references
Running Time: 108
Date: 08/24/2001

Lucky Break (2002)

1 Star (out of 4)

Dumb 'Luck'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If they were smart, director Peter Cattaneo and writer Simon Beaufoywould stick together like tea and cake. As a team they created thewonderful, lively hit The Full Monty which won over moviegoers fromall ends of the spectrum.

Separately, they've cranked out such stodgy, mushy, yawn-inducing films as Among Giants, Blow Dry and this latest, Lucky Break.

Not to mention that the Full Monty style, a happy-go-lucky take on working class Brits, has already been co-opted in a number of other weak films like Greenfingers and Mean Machine.

Add that to the fact that Cattaneo has waited four years for this first film since The Full Monty, and it boils down to too little, too late.

Like Greenfingers and Mean Machine, Lucky Break takes place in prison, where the lads are all sweet fellows who probably wouldn't hurt a fly.

Our hero this time is Jimmy Hands (James Nesbitt), an incompetent bank robber who bungles his latest job and gets sent to the pokey. After a clash with the iron-drawers warden Graham Mortimer (Christopher Plummer), Jimmy learns that he's a musical buff and has written his own play. He concocts a plan to stage the play, using a dilapidated chapel on prison grounds, and to make his escape during the play's climax.

Jimmy comes complete with the usual gang of wacky pals: Timothy Spall, Lennie James (Snatch) and Bill Nighy, who join him on his plot. Olivia Williams (Rushmore) makes a token appearance as the girl of Jimmy's dreams who predictably keeps him from going through with his plan at the last minute. She's a sexy social worker (the equivalent of the warden's daughter in Borstal Boy) who's somehow allowed to hang around with hardened criminals.

Just the act of spelling out this movie's forced, unchallenging, unexceptional plot makes me want to nap. But Cattaneo's execution and the performances ring with the same sausage-factory emptiness. Lucky Break is nothing more than a widget cranked out on an assembly line to see if stupid Americans will get a kick out of goofy Brits with cute accents performing ages-old slapstick and humorless tricks.

It's a shame that the Academy wasted a Best Director Oscar nomination on Cattaneo back in 1997 for The Full Monty when that same slot could have been given to Quentin Tarantino (Jackie Brown), Martin Scorsese (Kundun) or Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights). Lucky Break proves that he was a one-hit wonder.

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