It can't be easy following an international success story like "The Full Monty", but director Peter Cattaneo almost pulls it off with this light-hearted prison caper in which a group of mismatched convicts use amateur dramatics to conceal an audacious jail break.
After an ill-conceived hold-up goes disastrously awry, small-time criminals Jimmy (James Nesbitt) and Rudy (Lennie James) find themselves reunited inside HMP Long Rudford. It doesn't take long for Jimmy to fall foul of sadistic head of security Perry (Ron Cook), but freedom beckons when the Governor (Christopher Plummer) decides to mount an amateur staging of his self-penned masterpiece "Nelson - The Musical" - providing the perfect cover for a daring escape bid.
Anyone who has seen a single episode of Porridge will recognise the collection of thugs, losers, and oddballs roped into Jimmy's hair-brained scheme, while Olivia Williams supplies the obligatory love interest as a pretty social worker. Broad comic relief comes from Timothy Spall and Bill Nighy, and screenwriter Ronan Bennett steers the action towards a tense, if predictable climax.
Where the film falters is in its tone. Having set the scene for an ensemble working-class feel-gooder in "The Full Monty" mode, Cattaneo introduces a heavy-handed tragic twist midway through that casts a deathly pall over all that follows. Moreover, where the likes of Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy delivered restrained, naturalistic performances, Nighy, James, et al opt for hammy turns that border on the camp. Still, what do you expect from a movie with a song called "Kiss Me Hardy"?
"Lucky Break" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 24th August 2001.