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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Nov 2002
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    Plunkett & Macleane holds up history by trying to be Trainspotting

    This swaggering tale of 18th-century highwaymen is retold as a sweary modern crime drama
    Alex von Tunzelmann, Thursday 5 January 2012 13.32 GMT

    James Maclaine (the accepted spelling) found fame as the "Gentleman Highwayman" in mid-18th-century London. He blamed the violent element of his crimes on his accomplice, William Plunket.

    The film opens with Macleane (Jonny Lee Miller) languishing in a debtor's jail in Knightsbridge. He is accidentally freed by Plunkett (Robert Carlyle) in the course of a far-fetched robbery. Both men end up in prison at Newgate, and must buy their way out with a ruby Plunkett has thoughtfully swallowed. The real James Maclaine was an Irishman of respectable family, though he himself managed only a patchy career as a grocer in London's Welbeck Street. When he lost what little remained of his money at the gaming tables during a masquerade, he and apothecary William Plunket donned Venetian masks and held up a farmer on Hampstead Heath. You might think this would make a fantastic scene. Oddly, the film doesn't agree. Instead, it offers us a fictional and daft sequence in Newgate, with Macleane having his end away with the gaoler's daughter while Plunkett attempts to excrete the ruby.

    The film distracts itself from the real story by trying to be a historical Trainspotting, which was released three years before starring the same actors. Regrettably, the show-off camera angles, glitzy costumes and pop soundtrack can't hide the screenplay's weakness. Its attempt at provocative anachronistic dialogue � basically, swearing � will do little to scandalise the 18th-century historian, for contrary to popular opinion swearing was not invented by the Sex Pistols in 1976. With considerable effort, the historian might summon up a vague sense of irritation at the occasional use of the word "wanker", which was not recorded before the 1940s.

    In the film, Plunkett and Macleane's first robbery is of the fictional Lord Gibson (Michael Gambon), the lord chief justice, and his niece Lady Rebecca (Liv Tyler). A 20-guinea price is put on their heads. In real life, Maclaine's best-known celebrity victim was gothic novelist and Whig MP Horace Walpole, whom he and Plunket relieved of a watch and seals in Hyde Park on 8 November 1749. During the hold-up, Maclaine accidentally fired his pistol, scorching Walpole's face. Walpole offered a 20-guinea reward for his belongings, to which Maclaine responded with a somewhat apologetic letter demanding 40 guineas. Eventually he gave in, and sold them back to Walpole for the original sum.

    Walpole is not in the film. Instead, Lord Rochester appears, played by Alan Cumming in a big purple hat. It's not clear which Lord Rochester he is meant to be. His character's interest in misbehaviour would suggest libertine poet John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester � but he died in 1680, and this is supposed to be 1748. In 1748, the title of Rochester was held by Henry Hyde, 4th Earl of Clarendon, an obscure former Tory MP in his late 70s with an interest in opera. It really is like no one involved in this production ever even opened a book. How very anarchic.

    In a botched but noble attempt to save Lady Rebecca, Macleane is captured. In real life, Maclaine was caught when he sold some stolen clothes, unwisely giving his real name and address to the shopkeeper. During his trial at the Old Bailey, Maclaine confessed his crimes with exaggerated penitence. So much did he milk it that ladies wept and sighed in the courtroom. He was sentenced to hang, and according to contemporary reports "went through the whole awful Scene with a manly Firmness, join'd with all the Appearances of true Devotion". In the movie, Plunkett rides up at the last minute to save him. In real life, that doesn't often happen � and indeed, on this occasion, it didn't. James Maclaine swung at Tyburn on 3 October 1750 and was buried two days later. The film gets one thing right: William Plunket was never apprehended.

    The real story of Maclaine and Plunket could make a great movie. Unfortunately, this flimsy attempt neither stands nor delivers.

  2. #2
    Member Country: England
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    Feb 2008
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    Well, whilst I certainly wouldn't say it was a classic, I found it entertaining.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Country: United States wearysloth's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
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    I'd go with hugely entertaining

    and a terrific score by Craig Armstrong to boot

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: England faginsgirl's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
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    I`m sure I started a thread about this before as it`s one of my favorite films .

    I don`t think anybody answered

    Brilliantly put together visually and musically and I love the Boy George influence.
    Last edited by faginsgirl; 14-01-12 at 09:22 PM.

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