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Plunkett and Macleane

Threat advisory: Severe - Severe risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Set in the middle of the 18th century and based on real life characters, Plunkett and Macleane is the story of two notorious highwaymen. An unlikely couple from different ends of the social spectrum, they enter a gentleman's agreement. With Plunkett's (Robert Carlyle) brains and know-how, and Macleane's (Jonny Lee Miller) social connections, they infiltrate wealthy society.

Macleane gathers information and together they hold up the coaches of the aristocracy. They rob the rich and line their pockets for Plunkett to fulfil his dream and travel to the USA, and for Macleane to sustain his high cost of living.

When Plunkett and Macleane hold up the coach of Lord Chief Justice Gibson (Michael Gambon), Macleane falls in love with his beautiful and rebellious niece, Lady Rebecca Gibson (Liv Tyler). His charming manner quickly earns him the name the gentleman highwayman.

Gibson's second in command, Thief Taker General Chance (Ken Stott), also pursues Rebecca's attentions in vain, but it is his relentless pursuit of the gentlemen highwaymen that edges Plunkett and Macleane nearer to capture and possible execution at the famous Tyburn Tree. As danger approaches, the partners' daring and loyalty are pushed to the limit...

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Woo hoo! Butch and Sundance for the 1740s.

This is a seriously good film combining the best assets of comedy, costume drama and action adventure. The story's a ripping yarn, the tongue is firmly in cheek and there're plenty of chase scenes. The violence is full on and fully justified, the dirt is real and really dirty and the nasty viciousness of the times is viciously nasty.

Imagine Dangerous liaisons mixed with Shakespeare in love and Elizabeth. And Enemy of the state. with just a touch of Lock, stock and two smoking barrels. Made for the 90s. Whew!

Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller (who were last seen together in Trainspotting) are perfectly cast as the peasant scum highwayman and the destitute, amoral aristocrat. They are great actors in their own right but together they melt the celluloid. Liv Tyler gives one of her better performances (as an actor she's always in danger of taking herself too seriously), while the supporting cast has the depth of talent that this film deserves.

The locations are richly evocative (I have been wanting to use that phrase for some time now), from the grimy sewers to the glorious palaces. The music is from the 90s, which creates a brilliant juxtaposition (I haven't used that word since university) of genres. The language and the characters are also thoroughly modern, but they also work extremely well set against the period stuff.

Wank, wank, wank.

A special mention goes to Alan Cumming for his virtuoso performance as the foppish and debauched Lord Rochester, for bringing a deliciously lascivious sense of fun to every scene he's in and for having the best lines (kind of like Rupert Everett's character in My best friend's wedding, but not as subdued). Another special mention goes to the gallows poet, Murray Lachlan Young for his wonderful Poem). This is a hilarious, full-on, romantic, dramatic, exciting film that must be seen to be believed. So do!

(Historic note: the real Macleane was caught and hanged on the gallows while the real Plunkett disappeared and was never seen again.)

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence)

Not for public release in Australia before date

20 May 1999

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Gallows tree by Murray Lachlan Young
It does not bring pleasure to my heart
To stand and deliver the sorrowful tale
Of the man who now stands in the rattling cart
Eith a mind full of woe and a belly full of ale
As as God is my witness I shall weep with all of thee
When the drop fell comes and his legs kick the air
When the highwayman dances on the Tyburn gallows tree.

Tell me is there a man in all England
Who would trade his daily toil
For a breakneck speed
For a handsome lass
For a casket of jewels
And a life rich and royal.

Pounding hooves on moonlit mile
Flashing blade in fancies style
Lifting gold lifting dresses
Stealing rubies from princesses.
Oh for a week for a night and a day
For the rush of the wind and the pistol's bray.
Sir! For that life would you gladly be
A dancing with the devil on the Tyburn gallows tree.

They call him the Gentleman Highwayman
They tell me he speaks with a plum in his throat
But how can you chatter in such high company
When you've shit in you britches and your neck's in a rope
When you're pissing and screaming and gasping for air
When your fine leather booties are carving the air?
You can dance blindfolded as your last dying plea
For you don't need a teacher or a half-baked preacher
To learn you how to dance on the Tyburn gallows tree.

Gallows tree, gallows tree,
How do I love thee gallows tree?
Still as the dead
Silent as the sun
Master of all men
Lover of none
Silently waiting ne'er blushing nor chasing
No asker of secrets
No teller of lies
Right hand of blind justice
Old England's best buttress
Cold handed deliverer
Feeder of flies
Accomplice to murder
Mother of shame
Gallows tree
Gallows tree
Bastard of history
Gallows tree
Taker of
Sweet James Macleane.

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