Review by Simon Bell
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary featuring James Nesbitt and director
Peter Cattaneo; Theatrical trailer; On location; Featurette; Cast/crew interviews;
Coming four years after the one about the male strippers, the comparisons will be inevitable. Heralded in 1997 as the best of British present and future and accumulating an Oscar for his film and star, it's also inevitable that ex-Art School graduate Peter Cattaneo would fall victim to Welles Syndrome.
Thus it is that, although certainly no Orson, Cattaneo follows up his debut brilliance with a feature that promises not such a glittering tomorrow. Because where Cattaneo thrived on The Full Monty's inconsistencies, with Lucky Break he resorts to feel-bad clichés shrouded in banalities wrapped in stereotypes.
And it's exactly the playing-it-safe method that is the picture's ruin. Jimmy (James Nesbitt) and Rudy (Lennie James) are two small-time criminals with big-time ambitions. Said ambitions land them in the slammer and from cell 307/B wing a plan is hatched to foil the blackheart Prison Chief.
With an unlikely love story and a sudden suicide thrown in, there's all the ingredients of a knock about, crowd-pleasing romcom. Unfortunately though, we have a series of textbook set pieces that do anything but challenge the status quo... and a prison that is just too twee to be tangible. (Even the arsonist who torches schools only fulfils his subterranean pyromaniacal yearnings while the kiddies are on holiday.)
But we do get an am-dram musical about Admiral Nelson scripted by Stephen Fry and performed by the inmates that reminds one of The Tall Guy (in which Jeff Goldblum's Dexter gets a part in Elephant Man musical with a song called "I'm Packing My Trunk"). Easily the funniest moment in the film is where Nelson sings: "The world's at war and men will die - I see it clear with just one eye".
Despite its many shortcomings, with a wealth of British talent (supported by enough flat-nosed ne'er-do-wells to make even Guy Ritchie choke on his pie and mash) and a minor treasury of comedic nuggets (an Anger Management session; a bit part musical-player continually piping up two bars too early; and Bill Nighy's upper-class twit Roger Chamberlain with a host of one-liners delivered with a timing unmatched) it is finally an impossible film to hate.