Boldly even brilliantly stylish, in a hugely shallow sort of way, this audacious romp takes one of those musty old stories of period derring-do, tarts it up in all the late 20th-century attitude it will bear, then adds a little extra
snarl and swagger for good measure. Plunkett (Robert Carlyle) is a roguish apothecary-turned-highwayman; Macleane (Jonny Lee Miller) is a social climbing ne'er-do-well who has the manners and tastes of a gentleman without the resources to support them. Fate throws them together, and Plunkett figures they should combine their strengths: Macleane can infiltrate the extravagant ranks of aristocratic society, while Plunkett knows how best to liberate the idle rich from their obscene wealth. Macleane takes to the preening and prancing as though to the manner born, but eventually gets into the shady business as well, robbing with such aplomb that he becomes known as the "Gentleman Highwayman." Trouble quickly looms in the form of a sadistic, puritanical lawman named Chance (Ken Stott), who's determined to knock the pair off their notorious pedestal; the partnership is threatened from within by Macleane's crush on beautiful, feisty Lady Rebecca (Liv Tyler). First-time feature director Jake Scott (son of director Ridley) isn't much for subtlety, but he's got the nerve for grand dramatic flourishes and no fear of anachronism. 18th-century aristocrats are kitted out like debauched (and aging) club kids, all sky-high hair and outrageous clothes; a grand ball is staged to the accompaniment of churning techno-pop and the shock is how good a fit it is. Alan Cumming minces vigorously through the role of legendary rake Lord Rochester, lip-sticked and beauty-marked to a fare-thee-well, and everything is shrouded in fog and smoke from exploding musket pans. It's vulgar, to be sure, but it's also brash and invigorating.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: R
- Review: Boldly even brilliantly stylish, in a hugely shallow sort of way, this audacious romp takes one of those musty old stories of period derring-do, tarts it up in all the late 20th-century attitude it will bear, then adds a little extra snarl a… (more)