"The Duke" is the sort of British comedy that we used to get more of over here stateside. There is a difference between an American comedy with British actors and a British comedy, with this film being the latter. It possesses the same tone and charm of films like "The Full Monty" (minus the strippers), and features two gems of the British acting crown, with Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren lifting up an otherwise mediocre script, about a seemingly normal old man who once stole a prized Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.
Based on a true story, the setting is the early 1960s in England, where a cab driver by the name of Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), is a bit of a rebel rouser, protesting a British tax on their newly acquired and widely popular television station (this is how our friends in Britain pay for the BBC). Kempton is in and out of jail and constantly in trouble, so it comes as no surprise that this is the type of man who would plot to steal a painting that has been getting all kinds of press since arriving in London.
But this is no heist movie, and instead is a somewhat sluggish family drama, despite the jazzy score and the light tone. Kempton lives with his disapproving wife, Dorothy (the lovely Helen Mirren), and their grown son (Jack Bandeira) who has promise but is drawn more towards a life of crime and tomfoolery, much like his pop. Kempton and Dorothy trade some good zingers here and there, but they are still mourning the loss of their daughter from years earlier. The film segues into an inspirational courtroom drama by its third act, when an enthusiastic lawyer (Matthew Goode, who just tore up the small screen with his portrayal as film producer Robert Evans in the Paramount+ limited-series, "The Offer") steps in to defend Bunton in court.
This was the final film for director Robert Michell, who died in 2021 at the age of 65. Michell had made a career out of charming romantic adventures, like "Notting Hill," "Venus" and "Hyde Park on Hudson." "The Duke" won't resonate as his best work, but it is a good example of how great actors can elevate even the most laborious of scripts. Broadbent always seems to work with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step, and his scenes with Helen Mirren make "The Duke" just barely bearable.
Genre: Comedy, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes.
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Matthew Goode, Jack Bandeira).
Directed by Robert Michell ("Notting Hill," "Blackbird," "Venus," "Hyde Park on Hudson").
"The Duke" is in limited theatrical release on Friday, April 29th, 2022.
Looking for a specific movie or review?