Combustible Celluloid
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With: Minnie Driver, Mary McCormack, Kevin McNally, Michael Gambon, Mark Williams, Kevin Eldon
Written by: Kim Fuller, from a story by Fuller and Georgia Pritchett
Directed by: Mel Smith
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and nudity
Running Time: 85
Date: 07/16/2001

High Heels and Low Lifes (2001)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Couple of 'Heels'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

No one's happier than I am that women finally seem to be enjoying strong, unforgiving parts -- especially on television. Prompted by the success of "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," now at least half a dozen women kick some serious behind on a weekly basis. The movies seem to be a bit slower to catch on, though. One movie earlier this year, Beautiful Creatures, almost got it right with two women (Rachel Weisz and Susan Lynch) laying claim to their own power and taking on a bunch of gangsters. The new High Heels and Low Lifes follows in the same path but falls even shorter of an acceptable result than its predecessor.

The key difference is that Weisz and Lynch's characters had no choice and, hence, had nothing to lose. The characters in High Heels, a nurse played by Minnie Driver and an actress played by Mary McCormack, take on the mob seemingly for a lark. Like Beautiful Creatures, High Heels and Low Lifes takes place in Merry Olde England where Shannon (Driver) gets off late one night from her hospital shift only to find that her useless sound-artist boyfriend, Ray (Darren Boyd), has forgotten her birthday. She kicks the bonehead out and calls on her American actress friend, Frances (McCormack), currently providing the voice for an animated space tomato.

The two girls celebrate a drunken evening of birthday and "good-riddance-to-the-ex" revelry. Upon returning home, the girls find that the ex's sound equipment has picked up a cell phone call made during a bank robbery. What's more, they now have the dunderhead's cell phone number. Calling upon Frances' acting skills, the girls decide to blackmail the robbers and use the money to donate some new equipment to the hospital where Shannon works (plus a little for themselves and their trouble).

As written by Kim Fuller (Spice World) and Georgia Pritchett and directed by Mel Smith (The Tall Guy, Radioland Murders and Bean), the film flies wildly out of control, throwing in a failed suspense scene here and a failed comedy scene there, with very little tying them together. In addition, Smith doesn't bother to provide any real logic to the girls' situation. He sinks quite low in one scene where the girls attempt a drop in a garbage can in the park. Before they can root the money out of the trash a homeless man begins poking around and gets himself shot. But even knowing this, they continue to move forward with their harebrained plot even though they're continuously presented with options to get out. "They've picked on the wrong girls!" the movie screams at us.

Fortunately, the mobsters (played by Kevin McNally and Michael Gambon) are even dumber than the girls, and two cops, played by Mark Williams (who continually talks about real estate) and Kevin Eldon, are even dumber than the mobsters. The climax consists of a big, stupid, sloppy shoot-out in which the girls steal a huge stockpile of guns, leaving only a peashooter the size of a paper clip for the bad guys. I should have gotten a huge kick out of seeing two women (and Driver, especially, whom I adore) make monkeys out of the mob and the cops. But with the tiny I.Q.s of the characters in this film, it wouldn't have been much harder for the likes of Laverne and Shirley to pull off the same joyless stunt.

I seriously doubt anyone was clamoring for a re-assessment of this movie, but just in case, Kino Lorber has released a new Blu-ray edition for 2018, with a commentary track by writer Kim Fuller and voice actor Lewis Macleod, and trailers for four other Kino Lorber releases. It includes both 5.1 and 2.0 audio mixes and optional English subtitles.

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