Main cast: Robert Carlyle (Will Plunkett), Jonny Lee Miller (Capt James Macleane), Liv Tyler (Lady Rebecca Gibson), Alan Cumming (Lord Rochester), and Michael Gambon (Lord Gibson)
Director: Jake Scott
Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller are two dashing, fine Brit actors who burst into the scene the big way in the classic Trainspotting. Now, they are reunited again in Plunkett & Macleane, a swashbuckling romp. How can I resist?
James Macleane is a gentleman – or so he terms himself – who is rotting in debtor’s prison when Will Plunkett’s latest robbery causes a stagecoach to crash into the wall of his cell. Plunkett’s partner swallowed a ruby before dying, and when Macleane, upon freedom, digs up the man’s grave to retrieve the ruby, Plunkett places a gun at his head. They strike a bargain: Macleane will use his dash and style to infiltrate the aristocracy, and together they will rob those fat, bloated spoilt brats of their monies.
Their plan succeeds, but Macleane finds himself falling for Rebecca, the niece of the Chief Justice who is out for their blood. And when their uneasy but carefully planned alliance slowly derail under external pressures, ho ho, boy, they sure have lot of fun or what!
Part of the charm of this movie is its deliberate anachronism: loud, rock music soundtrack in a historical, anyone? Robert Carlyle infuses quiet strength and dignity in his underdeveloped character, a not-too-bright man who is emotionally hardened from everything around him. Likewise, Mr Miller manages to add some style and panache to his ladies’ man character, enough for me to forgive the fact that Macleane, like Plunkett, has little character thanks to a script that emphasizes flair over substance.
Liv Tyler sports a horrendous British accent, but she manages to pull off her role admirably: Rebecca is a lady, but underneath her pristine pure image is a lady who smokes and delights in the adventures of the two Gentlemanly Highwaymen. Best of all, next to Carlyle, is the ever-reliable Alan Cumming (please, no more joke about the last name) whose bisexual, effeminate Rochester hides a steely, somewhat ruthless man who doesn’t hesitate to help his friends even if it means breaking the law. Rochester is clearly the true Scarlet Pimpernel type here. Fun!
This movie has all the elements of a great, hip, youthful swashbuckler adventure: gunfights, deception, strong heroine, two great antiheroes, and a despicable villain whose offing has me cheering. If this is an example of the New Wave British cinema, oh, I’m first in line for the tickets!