Political Film Society - Newsletter #130 - April 10, 2002

April 10, 2002


Lucky Break
Are British filmmakers trying to tell the world that prisoners can be rehabilitated? After the delightful Greenfingers (2001), we are now treated to the amusing Lucky Break. After fifteen years of "bad luck," that is, unsuccessful robberies, Jimmy Hands (played by James Nesbitt) and Rudy Guscott (played by Lennie James) decide to rob a bank. After they screw up again, they return to prison, this time for a five-year sentence. Three penal philosophies are evident. When Jimmy misbehaves, he is sent to solitary confinement by prison warden Perry (played by Ron Cook), who does not believe in rehabilitation. When he is released, Jimmy meets Annabel (played by Olivia Williams) of the prison support unit, who tells him that she wants him to be one of the 10 percent who are rehabilitated rather than the 90 percent who are recidivists. At her class on anger management, however, Jimmy and Rudy start to fight, so Jimmy goes back to solitary. When he is released, he meets the prison governor, Graham Mortimer (played by Christopher Plummer), who loves musicals and show tunes, and Jimmy discovers on his desk that he has written a musical, entitled "Nelson" (honoring Lord Nelson of the Battle of Trafalgar), so Jimmy indicates a similar interest.

Later, while trying to devise an escape plot, Jimmy and Rudy learn that the old chapel would be an ideal place to be, since the location is closer to the fence and wall to be scaled. When Jimmy suggests that the prisoners might put on a performance of a musical honoring an important British hero, the governor jumps at the opportunity, and rehearsals begin in the old chapel, with John Toombes (played by Frank Harper) imported to direct the musical. The preparations for the musical, in which many prisoners go through personal transformations, go alongside the escape plans. Among the transformations is that a love affair develops between Annabel and Jimmy. The love affair is so powerful that Jimmy helps three of the inmates to escape, as planned, but he prefers to remain in prison so that he can win the affection of Annabel, who greets him with open arms and kisses when he has served his time and is released. In the epilog we see where the prisoners end up-some at a Caribbean resort or in Hollywood, peddling maps of the stars, but Jimmy's cellmate Cliff (played by Timothy Spall) stays in prison longer and becomes a songbird. Directed by Peter Cataneo, Lucky Break clearly tells Californians and others that the three strikes law condemns to oblivion those who can be rehabilitated and even may make important contributions to society. MH