Film Review: Lucky Break (2001)

“When everyone is taking their bows, you and me exit stage left”

Lucky Break is the type of slight and inoffensive film that makes you wonder how on earth it got made yet at the same time makes you glad for its lazy Sunday afternoon viewing potential. Director Peter Cattaneo also helmed The Full Monty (which might answer the first point) and though there are similarities between the two – putting a certain type of British masculinity under the microscope – Lucky Break pulls back quickly from any real emotional depth or societal analysis in favour of popcorn-led entertainment. And as long as you go in fully aware of this, you might find yourself enjoying it.

Jimmy is a repeat offender who finds himself in prison once again after a particularly botched bank job but soon spots an opportunity to make a break for it. Prison warden Mortimer is keen for the inmates to put on a production of his newly-penned musical and as it will be performed in the old chapel that offers the easiest route out of the clink, Jimmy persuades his buddies to join in the amateur dramatics fun of Nelson – The Musical and allow him to jump the wall. Nothing is ever quite as easy as all that though, not least his budding relationship with prison psychiatrist Annabel.

To criticise the film for its unlikely occurrences and scarcely credible contrivances seems misguided and even mean-spirited. The mere suggestion that Annabel, Olivia Williams trying her damnedest here, would sacrifice all her professional integrity for James Nesbitt is laughable but there’s just about enough twinkle-eyed charisma here to carry it off, especially once the rehearsals start, making the pair the leading man and lady of the show. Anne Dudley and Stephen Fry collaborated on the songs for the musical and they are quite amusing as a pastiche of bad musical theatre.

Elsewhere, the prison is filled with soft-around-the-edges comedic types perfect for a British comedy. Timothy Spall, Ram John Holder, Bill Nighy…it’s a quality cast but they’re never really given that much to do and when Cattaneo reaches for a moment of genuine pathos with a suicide, it strikes an unnecessarily bum note – this isn’t the side of incarceration that is being shown here and to suggest that this film can do both is a thread it really doesn’t want to pull at. But Ron Cook is fun as an irascible guard, Celia Imrie glows as a mischievous prisoner’s wife and the whole thing is happy when it remains the charming nonsense it knows it is.

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