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plunkett & macleane is a period piece mired down by modern mtv pretentions .
i have nothing against the mtv approach to filmmaking -- used properly it can save a movie ( see stigmata ) -- but it ruins this one , making a muddled , incoherent mess out of a potentially interesting premise .
there are certain genres that just don't go together .
the film opens with a sequence that i still don't understand .
it involves some sort of prison outbreak , a robbery , and a gem that keeps being eaten .
in any case , the caper ( whatever it may be ) brings together plunkett and macleane ( robert carlyle and johnny lee miller , respectively ) , two happy-go-lucky brits with no way to make a living .
they make a pact to steal money from the rich and give it to themselves until they earn enough money to buy a ticket to america .
their first heist involves a young debutante named lady rebecca ( liv tyler ) ; a woman macleane was especially friendly with at a party just earlier .
his decorum when stripping her of her valuables earns our two crooks the name " gentleman highwaymen . "
lady rebecca also happens to be the niece of the lord chief justice , a glaringly arrogant man nearing the end of his political career .
he demands that the robbers be caught and punished immediately , leaving the job in the hands of the devious chance ( ken stott ) who has a few more things on his mind than catching criminals .
meanwhile , macleane falls in love with rebecca infuriating the businesslike plunkett , who doesn't want his plans to be foiled by his partner's mindless romantic travails .
director jake scott , son of ridley scott ( alien , blade runner ) , has his father's knack for setting up atmospheric shots but none of his skill in actually moving the camera .
most of the action scenes are filmed in such a rapid , jerky way that it's impossible to comprehend what's going on .
the camerawork is even more nauseating than in the purposefully dizzying the blair witch project due to its lack of fluidity .
instead of utilizing panning shots to impress upon us the scope of the events scott uses attention-deficit-disorder edits .
he barely ever holds a shot for more than ten seconds and during the faster scenes it seems more like a couple frames between each cut .
the weird , almost defiant lack of dialogue ( there are no -- no -- conversations lasting over , say , 20 seconds ) undermines character definition and our two protagonists come off as ciphers rather than characters .
the love affair between macleane and rebecca is no different , emotionless and unrealistic .
when the script calls for macleane to decide between going to america and going to meet his lover , there is no reason for us to believe it would be worth it for him to abandon his goal ; he and rebecca barely even speak to each other throughout the film .
plunkett and macleane wants desperately to be a triumph of style over substance but since its style , quite frankly , blows , the film has no hope of succeeding on any level .
i wanted to appreciate this movie on the basis of its admittedly kinetic pace but i couldn't -- it was so kinetic it gave me a headache .