Two best girlfriends living in London suddenly find themselves battling wits with seasoned criminals when they decide to blackmail the culprits of a bank heist in their neighborhood rather than reporting the crime to the police. Refusing to be played by this new competition and give up the demanded $2 million, the leaders of the gang of robbers (Kevin McNally and Michael Gambon) decide to start playing dirty tricks, threaten violence and counterfeit money in an effort to throw the two women (played by Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack) off course. When the blackmail and counter attacks hurt an innocent bystander, the kooky best friends must use their friendship to empower each other to lure the hardened criminals into a risky trap. Written by
A lot of movies are made that have little significance or substance, but are `just for fun,' and wind up being forgettable, in general, as they are made with an eye on box office or projected video receipts, rather than on creating a film that is not only just for fun, but at the same time, worthwhile and enduring. Happily, `High Heels and Low Lifes,' directed by Mel Smith, is one of those rare gems of a little, just-for-fun movie that succeeds in being exactly what it was meant to be: Highly entertaining, and most importantly, fun-- and in a way that's not only memorable, but quite accessible and one that lends itself to multiple viewings, primarily because of it's stars, Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack, who make one of the most winsome and engaging teams to come along in quite some time.
After a fight with her boyfriend, nurse Shannon (Driver) is left to celebrate her birthday with her best friend, Frances (McCormack), an aspiring actress. Departing as he did in a hurry, Shannon's boyfriend leaves behind his recording equipment and the scanners that enable him to pick up telephone conversations he can record and use to create a kind of urban, new age music. And after a bit too much to drink, the girls start to fool around with the scanner, and happen across a phone conversation between a gang of crooks committing a robbery.
Driven to action by purely altruistic intentions (of course), the girls realize this is a chance to pick up a big chunk of change real quick, and they decide to contact and `negotiate' with the thieves for a part of the take. The girls tell them to cough up or they'll go to the police. Big mistake, as they have no idea who they're dealing with, or how big (and bad) the organization behind them really is. But Shannon and Frances are about to find out, and before it's all over, they just may wish they'd never heard of a `scanner,' or for that matter, a telephone. Then again, maybe not...
Mel Smith succeeds in crafting and delivering a high-energy, often hilarious romp through London and the surrounding environs, as he puts his stars through their paces in a way that generates plenty of laughs and makes his audience glad they came along for the ride. Smith sets a perfect pace that makes this a lively comedy, enriched by witty dialogue, wry British humor and the iridescent performances of Driver and McCormack, all of which makes this film more reminiscent of such fare as Michael Caine's `The Italian Job,' or any of the early Peter Sellers movies, rather than the more contemporary Farrelly Brothers/'American Pie' type humor that is so prevalent today. And, as such, it is refreshingly fun AND funny, and leaves you yearning for more of the same.
Since her auspicious motion picture debut as Benny in the heartwarming `Circle of Friends' in 1995, Driver has successfully filled her resume with films that run the gamut from black comedy (As Debi, `Grosse Pointe Blank') and straight drama (Rosie, `The Governess') to action (Karen, `Hard Rain'). Not all of her projects have been a success critically and/or at the box office, perhaps, but one would be hard-put to find a single performance of hers among them that is not engaging and credible. She's demonstrated time and again that she can hold her own with the big boys in the high profile films (alongside De Niro in `Sleepers,' Damon and Affleck in `Good Will Hunting'), and one of her most memorable performances is in what is arguably one of the best romantic comedies of all time, `Return To Me,' in which she plays Grace. All in all, in a comparatively short time, Driver has accrued some impressive credentials, and she never fails to live up to her promise-- and her portrayal of Shannon in this film is no exception. Using to great effect her quirky good looks and winning personality, combined with a discernible intelligence that points up a beauty that is much more than skin deep, here as always, she is a delight to watch.
Perfectly cast, as well, is Mary McCormack, as she succeeds in capturing the very essence of Frances, while proving to be a perfect complement to Driver's Shannon. McCormack has that same kind of well-rounded beauty as Driver, which indicates there's always something going on behind the eyes, and cinematically speaking, as a team it makes them a force to be reckoned with. Most importantly, McCormack brings Frances vividly and enthusiastically to life, and it goes far toward enabling the viewer to suspend disbelief long enough to just go with the flow and enjoy the high jinks of these two young ladies as they cut their swath across the English countryside.
In a terrific supporting role, Michael Gambon, as Kerrigan, is wonderfully droll, espousing that oh-so-wry-and-dry British humor in a manner reminiscent and worthy of Noel Coward at his best. Indeed, Gambon has some of the funniest lines, delivered so subtly as to evoke purely spontaneous bursts of side-splitting laughter from the audience. And when an actor can do that, he has without question succeeded in doing his job; which is exactly what Gambon has accomplished here.
The supporting cast includes Kevin McNally (Mason), Mark Williams (Tremaine), Danny Dyer (Danny), Darren Boyd (Ray), Simon Scardifield (Tony) and Len Collin (Barry). By definition, a comedy is a `movie (or play) of light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending.' Therefore-- by definition-- `High Heels and Low Lifes' is a `comedy' in every sense of the word. Thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable, it's a film that makes a promise for a good time to be had by all, then goes on to fulfill that promise. The magic is alive and well in this one, and that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.
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