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Plunkett & Macleane

Starring Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Liv Tyler
Screenplay by Robert Wade & Neal Purvis and Charles McKeown, based on an original screenplay by Selwyn Roberts
Directed by Jake Scott
websites: http://www.robtherich.com (UK)
or www.reellife.com/plunkett.html (US)

IN SHORT: Best guilty pleasure of the year, and I'm not embarassed to admit it. tee hee . . . [Rated [R] ]

. . . and while you will probably see the high brow critics savage video director Jake Scott's bigscreen debut, Plunkett & Macleane, Cranky will tell you that he wishes he had purchaed the humongous sized popcorn combo. As far as "guilty pleasures go", and I'm one of the few who gave thumbs up to Wild Things and The Big Hit and Ringmaster, this "new wave take on historical drama" is a killer.

Or maybe it's that I worked in the music biz in the heydey of new wave. Plunkett & Macleane sets itself in the 18th century, while all the characters speak with 1990s attitude and language. Visually, think of the darkness of some Ultravox vids crossed with Jimmy Somerville's fey vocals, Adam Ant costumes and a pounding Eurobeat rhythm track. In short, it's every mid to late 80s "new wave" video cuisinart-ed together and played again and again, blasting out at you from the big screen with occasional pauses for things like plot and story to seep through.

Extremely loosely based on the fact that a pair of highwaymen called Plunkett & Macleane actually existed back around 1745 or so, one of whom (Macleane) was so polite and well mannered to his victims that he was dubbed "The Gentleman Highwayman". The England of this time had no organized Police Force and any villain of means could buy his way out of jail with a well placed bribe to a guard or judicial official.

When we first meet James Macleane (Jonny Lee Miller) he is a Gentleman in Debtor's Prison, a dank and dirty place whose quiet is disturbed by a violent robbery gone awry. This introduces us to Will Plunkett (Robert Carlyle), who has been after a fairly large ruby. Through a series of sequences I won't describe, the pair form an alliance to escape from a prison they are in. From the start, it is obvious how great the economic gap is between the rich and the poor, even in prison! On the outside, the pair decide to go with their strengths (they don't particularly like each other, but Partners rarely do). Macleane will impersonate a Gentleman and get the goods on who has what, where it is and when it can be stolen.

First victim is the pompous and corrupt Lord Chief Justice Gibson (Michael Gambon) and his lovely niece Rebecca (Liv Tyler). Maclean is lovestruck at first sight. Rebecca is more observant than she lets on, though she'll drop clues that she's discovered the identity of the Gentleman Highwayman as she flirts with an unmasked Macleane at various events. The sexual innuendo is shoveled on thick. It drips from every scene it can and wraps itself around as much of the dialog as possible. Not just from these two. Also from the bisexual Lord Rochester (Alan Cumming), a friend of Macleane and a man that would as soon cut your heart out with a rapier as he would perform a wee act of buggery . . .

The "good guy" is called Mr. Chance (Ken Stott), a sadistic and corrupt lawman for hire. He, too, has a thing for the lovely Rebecca and a good mind for landing on the right side of the churning political waters. His pursuit of the pair takes up most of the movie and the resolution borrows heavily from Bonnie and Clyde. The bad guys must die and the Good Guy must win out, but in this case the bad are good and vice versa, even the "bad guys must die" rule still applies.

How does the film manage both? I ain't telling.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Plunkett & Macleane, he would have paid...


Which is dateflick level for a flick that probably shoud be rated down at rental or pay-per-view. Sue me. I enjoyed it. Plunkett & Macleane is just as clever as Wild Things, only with a little bit of class . . . warfare.

That doesn't excuse the blatant ripoff of (the chorus section of) Talking Heads' Houses in Motion in the end credits tune "Horses In Motion" -- Yeah, right. It's a tribute. Puh-leeze. David Byrne should call a lawyer.

Click to buy films starring Liv Tyler
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