Plunkett and Macleane
Starring Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Liv Tyler, Alan Cumming and Ken Stott
CineSight Rating **
Based loosely on the real life 'gentleman highwayman', the film covers the exploits of two 18th century ne'er-do-wells, Plunkett and Macleane (Carlyle and Miller). Captain James Macleane is an unlucky gambler who dreams of being a socialite. He runs into ex-apothacary and highwaymen Plunkett in prison, and the two hit on a scheme. Macleane uses his contacts with London's aristocracy to find out who's worth robbing, and Plunkett masterminds the robberies. Simple really, except for a couple of small problems...
Macleane falls madly in love with one of their victims, the lady Rebecca Gibson (Tyler), niece of England's Lord Chief Justice Gibson. Also, the increasingly notorious highwaymen have attracted the attention of the cruel and ruthless Thief-taker General Chance (Stott), who plans to make an example of them.
PLUNKETT AND MACLEANE, the directorial debut of Jake Scott - related to Ridley (BLADE RUNNER) Scott and Tony (ENEMY OF THE STATE) Scott - is a strange piece of work. It mixes period costumes, baroque Prague architecture (doubling for 18th century London) and chamber music along with modern dialogue and a grunge/techno soundtrack. One striking scene at an elegant ball full of powdered wigs and hoop skirts, evokes the idea of some bizarre historical rave. Maybe times haven't changed so much, after all. Scott succeeds in revealing the decadent excesses of the aristocracy alongside the tough, grime-covered life of the common man, although he tends towards an extreme harshness in his characters. I found it difficult to identify or sympathize with any of the main players. However, Alan Cumming is quite dazzling in a supporting role as the rogueish and rakeish Duke of Rochester.