What You Need To Know:
Strong pagan worldview of thief heroes who get away with their crimes plus mention of Christian faith, anti-Christian bias with woman abuse implied by Christian & bi-sexual, corrupt character helps thieves escape; 32 obscenities & 8 profanities; extensive action violence including shooting, hanging, duel with pistols, bombing, threats with swords, man drives thumb into eye, beating & kicking, & man smacks woman; depicted fornication two times, some sexual humor, prostitution implied, some homosexual advances, & voyeurism; upper male nudity & women's cleavage; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking; and, images of corpses & extensive robbery.
Directed by music video and commercials director Jake Scott, PLUNKETT & MACLEANE provides a jolting whiz-bang attitude to the costume drama. Hoping to attract TRAINSPOTTING fans by casting two of its stars, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle, this earnest but uncohesive tale tells of two rouge highwayman who create a decent living robbing dignitaries in mid-18th Century England. Often violent, too modern in its musical choices, containing a few modern colloquialisms and mannerisms, this crime story seems ill-fated despite its rich costumes and energy.
Plunkett (Robert Carlyle) is a brutal robber, going to almost any lengths to nab his catch. MacLeane (Jonny Lee Miller) would rather be a gentleman, but he is already connected to high-society and knows where the money and valuables are going. When they are both sent to prison, they bribe their way out with a ruby that Plunkett passes after swallowing just after arrest. Though they are successful, their means, goals and heads often butt. Much of their mutual antagonism of one-up-manship plays for laughs, occasionally successful.
The more they rob, the more expensive clothes they purchase, the more they pass themselves off as gentleman, the better parties they attend, and the more beautiful women they meet. MacLeane falls in love at first sight with Lord Chief Justice Gibson’s niece, Lady Rebecca Gibson (Liv Tyler). Plunkett always rebukes MacLeane to keep focused and not to be distracted by his weakness for the fairer sex. Throughout their heists and adventures, MacLeane’s social ambitions are facilitated by his old friend, the foppish and debauched bisexual Lord Rochester (Alan Cumming).
A sadistic thief catcher, General Chance (Ken Stott), clamps down with his men in a relentless pursuit of the highwaymen. The reward for their capture increases, and Chance’s anger rises with each passing moment. When the men plan one last heist, MacLeane is captured and being prepared to hang, until his partner in crime and a few friends come to the rescue.
Visual style, plot and acting rank superb. This movie may carry strength based on these alone. However, all other elements rankle. They create a period piece that breaks normal sensibilities and jars the viewer’s expectations. Modern disco beats accompany the presence of Lord Rochester. Though he may be nothing more than an early drag queen, any suspension of disbelief is removed. (This clearly upset many in the screening, a middle-aged crowd well-trained in the ways of conventional costume dramas.) Other modern beats accompanied other characters throughout the movie. Also, many modern mannerisms, expressions and ways were continually exhibited on the film. Fast cuts and clever editing are welcome, especially in an action film, but to maintain true historical representation, please have some respect for the people’s behavior and speech!
The moral viewer will probably object to the glorification of these two blatant sinners. Plunkett doesn’t mind being violent to get his way, and MacLeane doesn’t mind seducing women to get what he wants. Hence, many acts of sex and violence are depicted.
Christians specifically will also be troubled by a Christian character who first smacks a prostitute, then challenges a man to a duel and finally cheats at the duel by using a thick Bible to shield a bullet. Finally, like THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and ENTRAPMENT, PLUNKETT & MACLEANE provides victory for the two criminal leads. No justice occurs. In TOPKAPI, audiences had fun with the robbers, but they finally got their wages – imprisonment.
History has many stories to tell and, as the famous Ripley has said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Historical tales needn’t necessarily be all about virtue, but respect for the time period and accurate consequences for right and wrong actions should be mandatory. PLUNKETT & MACLEANE violates dramatic and moral standards, consequentially robbing from itself, limiting its appeal and its box office.