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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Second time lucky
Jimmy (James Nesbitt), Kenny (Andy Linden) and Rudy (Lennie James)
This motley crew would be more at home in Porridge
By the BBC's Caroline Westbrook

In The Full Monty, director Peter Cattaneo proved he was just as good at combining high comedy with poignant reality, and the result was box office gold.

So it is no surprise that he sticks to a similar formula for his long-awaited follow-up - only this time the motley crew we are compelled to love are a bunch of convicts plotting the perfect escape route.

And while it is not as laugh-out-loud funny as Monty was, and the cast keep their clothes on throughout, this is still a warm-hearted charmer of a film.

Leading the pack of crims is Jimmy Hands (James Nesbitt), who along with his partner in crime Rudy (Lennie James) is sent down for a lengthy stretch after a botched bank robbery.

Christopher Plummer, who plays prison governor Graham Mortimor, rehearses with director Peter Cattaneo
The governor's musical is used as a ruse
His bid for freedom is given an unexpected boost by the prison governor (a superb Christopher Plummer) - a musicals fanatic who has penned a little epic of his own. (Nelson The Musical - a tuneful tribute to heroic Horatio and his adventures at sea).

Jimmy and his fellow inmates set about putting on the show, using it as an elaborate smokescreen to make their escape from jail.

However, matters are thoroughly complicated when Jimmy falls for prison support officer Annabel (Olivia Williams), who is none too keen on the idea of having a fugitive boyfriend.

Those who saw Monty will know where this is heading, character-wise - from Nesbitt's cheery hero to Timothy Spall's sad-eyed, despondent family man.

But this is a far gentler film, one which trades belly laughs for subtler chuckles and, in eschewing the broad slapstick of such recent efforts as The Parole Officer, is able to focus more on believable, hugely likeable characters.

Darren (Raymond Waring), Rudy (Lennie James), Jimmy (James Nesbitt) and Roger (Billy Nighy)
The audience wants the convicts to escape
This bunch would probably be more at home in an episode of Porridge than any real lock-up.

While the film never invites the audience to condone its convicts, it still allows you to warm to them, to the extent that by the time the big breakout happens you will be willing them to succeed in the best tradition of caper flicks.

Ronan Bennett's screenplay achieves the perfect mix of comedy and tragedy (something without which no Britcom is complete), while Cattaneo keeps a tight rein on proceedings and allows events to build slowly before having enormous fun with the ghastly prison musical (the cringe-making lyrics were penned by Stephen Fry).

The result not only suggests that Monty was no flash in the pan, but also proves that the British film industry can occasionally come up trumps.

In a disappointingly soulless blockbuster summer, this small film stands out as a real treat.

Lucky Break is out on general release from 24 August

Director Peter Cattaneo and actress Olivia Williams
discussing their latest film, Lucky Break
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