High Heels and Low Lifes

Thelma and Louise? No. Shannon (Minnie Driver), a cute, English ER nurse in a London hospital is the brunette half of a comic odd couple, completed by blond Frances (Mary McCormack), a pretty American actress. This devil-may-care duo is more a late-model Lucy and Ethel emancipated — off the leash — from Ricky and Fred so that they can get into more madcap trouble than those fabulous ’50s-era housewives ever could.

And the trouble is big. Frances’ harebrained scheme is to blackmail a gang of bank-robbing mobsters with some information the ladies accidentally overhear. Of course, the plan (or lack thereof) goes wrong — so wrong that it ends up with a body count. Sounds like our impetuous twosome blunders into English director Guy Ritchie’s territory: the darkly comic back alleys of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) or Snatch (2000)? Not quite. Though the titular low-life characters of this flick are gun-toting limey toughs, they’re simply not dangerous enough to make a Ritchie film’s cut. And comic-turned-director Mel Smith (Bean) and comedy writer Kim Fuller (Spice World) lack their countryman’s audacious flair with picture and plot.

Speaking of plot line, it’s slenderer than the high heels of our heroines — and feebler than the intellect of most of their foes. It couldn’t suspend the gathering weight of my disbelief. But at least this movie seems aware of its silly serendipity. Smith and Fuller even manage to tuck in the occasional clever allusion.

But is High Heels and Low Lifes funny? Yes, after a fashion. It has moments of amusement, humor and even laugh-out-loud hilarity. Put a couple of cute cuckoos — one a curvy American fish-out-of-water — into the aforementioned Guy Ritchie-lite setting and comedy comes with the situation, just as it did in “I Love Lucy.”

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].

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