Your inclination may depend on whether you recall his dad Ridley's own directing debut, The Duellists (1977), and savor the correspondences. Dad took a Joseph Conrad tale of the Napoleonic Wars, cast it with the ultra-contemporary Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel, and filmed it with a swoopingly mobile camera. Son Jake has made a feisty period piece about a pair of thieves (Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller) in 1748 London and filled it with blatant anachronisms. A decadent aristo (Alan Cumming), asked whether he "still swings both ways," replies, "I swing every way!" A ballroom full of revelers dances the minuet (or is it the gavotte?) while our ears--if not theirs--are filled with a rock ballad. And so forth.
Is this sophomoric? Maybe. But it's also often fresh and inventive. Why shouldn't a filmmaker be allowed to speak directly to a contemporary consciousness, even flaunt it, as long as he also delivers startling imagery and convincing period detail? The solid cast includes Michael Gambon as a corrupt magistrate, Ken Stott as a very nasty enforcer named Mr. Chance (who favors a thumb through the eye socket and into the brain as a mode of execution), and Terence Rigby as a philosophical jailer; even Liv Tyler looks more interesting than usual. Plunkett & Macleane is in the end pretty frivolous, but it's a lively debut nonetheless. --Richard T. Jameson