After a bank robbery that is bungled beyond belief, the brilliantly named Jimmy Hands (“Wild About Harry's” James Nesbitt) and his partner-in-crime Rudy (“Snatch's” Lennie James) find themselves banged up in HM Prison Long Rudford. But Jimmy and Rudy's love of liberty is such that they soon set about devising a plan to escape. An exit route suggests itself when Jimmy overhears the prison's governor Graham Mortimer (“The Insider's” Christopher Plummer) indulging in his love for “South Pacific.” Seeing that Mortimer has in fact written his own musical, Jimmy suggests that the inmates put on an amateur production to raise morale (not to mention provide a smokescreen for Jimmy and Rudy's escape). But as the rehearsals progress, Jimmy finds himself falling for Prisoner Support Officer Annabel Sweep (“The Sixth Sense's” Olivia Williams) and, when the curtain goes up for the musical, he is faced with a real dilemma.
A terrific ensemble piece, “Lucky Break” also boasts appearances from Timothy Spall (“Secrets And Lies”) as Jimmy's cellmate, Bill Nighy as the upper class con man Roger and newcomer Raymond Waring as a young arsonist. James Nesbitt gives a career-best performance and makes for a loveable rogue, while Olivia Williams brings both humor and humanity to the character of Annabel.
As a portrait of prison life, this isn't exactly “Animal Factory.” In fact, the film's crackling script and predominantly light tone mean that the occasional attempts at realism (mostly based around Spall's character) are often unsuccessful. Nevertheless, like “The Full Monty,” this is sure to raise audience's spirits and leave them singing long after the credits roll. Starring James Nesbitt, Olivia Williams, Timothy Spall and Christopher Plummer. Directed by Peter Cattaneo. Written by Ronan Bennett. Produced by Peter Cattaneo, Uri Fruchtmann and Barnaby Thompson. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references. Running time: 107 min.