Lucky Break (PG-13) ★½

Review Date: April 22nd, 2002

A group of British inmates stage their warden's play as a smokescreen for their escape.


Oddly, the last movie this reviewer critiqued was the ho-hum prison comedy/drama Mean Machine, about a bunch of underdog soccer-playing Brit convicts who want to prove themselves, done in the vein of Snatch. This time, the inmates hit the stage instead of the field in this ho-hum prison comedy about a bunch of underdog singing Brit convicts who want to escape by distracting the guards, done in the vein of The Full Monty. (There's a reason for that: Peter Cattaneo directed both movies.) Jimmy Hands (James Nesbitt) and his buddy Rudy (Lennie James) wind up in the slammer after a robbery gone ineptly wrong. When scheming Irishman Jimmy overhears the prison governor (Christopher Plummer) whistling a tune from South Pacific, he dreams up a scheme to stage a musical starring his fellow inmates that will distract the guards enough for his successful escape. Things go wrong. Jimmy reluctantly takes the musical's lead role and starts to fall for his leading lady, the prison psychologist, Annabel (Olivia Williams), and violent new arrival John Toombes (Frank Harper) puts some kinks in Jimmy's plans.


Nesbitt is a weak lead, offering nothing to make him stand out from the pack when, as the ringleader, he should be the most charismatic. This is particularly true since he's an unfamiliar face surrounded by the more recognizable Timothy Spall (Topsy-Turvy), who plays Jimmy's hapless cellmate (with a subplot that goes nowhere), and Christopher Plummer. One wonders how the inattentive governor got promoted to prison warden, as he's more concerned with writing plays than taking care of business, but Plummer makes him possibly the most interesting character of the lot. Williams is a typical love interest, nothing new there.


Too bad this Full Monty follow-up won't break out of the shadow of its predecessor. Director Peter Cattaneo drags out this all-too-obvious tale, forgetting the fact that you can get away with such a predictable story line only if you have enough laughs to carry it. Lucky Break gives us characters we've seen before and actors who are just going through the motions. Many of the characters introduced are never developed, and some (like John Toombes) are brought in too late. The film has some cute moments and a few chuckles but falls flat in the end.

Bottom Line

Lucky Break is more charmless than charming.