Plunkett and Macleane

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Buggers with style.

Plunkett & Macleane is a historical action comedy, released in 1999. The titular characters are based very, very loosely on real life highway men William Plunkett and James Macleane. The story itself pretty much nothing to do with them.

Set in 1748, when highwaymen are plaguing the wealthy along England's roads, the film a revolves around the criminal partnership of the titular characters. Macleane witnesses a robbery gone wrong when Plunkett's young partner is killed by Thief Taker General Chance. Desperate to clear his debts Macleane attempts to retrieve a valuable ruby the deceased partner swallowed before his death. Unfortunately at the cemetery he's confronted at gunpoint by Plunkett. Things take a bad turn for both parties when Chances men arrive to arrest them forcing Plunkett to swallow the ruby before their capture.

Realising Macleane's higher social status will allow him the means to bribe them both out of prison with the jewel, Plunkett proposes a new partnership. Macleane begins living among the rich, gaining inside knowledge so Plunkett can figure out how to rob them blind. Beginning a lucrative and highly risky business venture together. As their notoriety spreads, General Chance grows more eager to catch them in the act and Macleane begins to complicate things further by falling for one Lady Rebecca Gibson.

As a whole the film is your classic tale of unlikely partners becoming friends that just happen to be criminals in the 18th century. Expect entertainment and humour to take precedent over strict historical accuracy.

Tropes used in Plunkett and Macleane include:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Used to escape on several occassions by the highwaymen.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Lady Rebecca, of course. One woman in the middle of being robbed no less, was enjoying things a little too much...
  • Always Save the Girl: Subverted. Macleane goes back for Rebecca, despite Plunkett's warnings its a trap. In the end it gets him arrested and convicted for murder.
  • Anti Heroes: Plunkett & Macleane, despite being thieves come off very heroic, especially given the evil Chance is hunting them and the people they steal from are mostly elitist snobs.
  • Anything That Moves: Rochester

Macleane: Still swinging both ways, Rochester?
Rochester: Jamie, I swing every way.

  • Asshole Victim: Rooting for the two rather unscrupulous highwaymen -- other than the fact that they both turn out to be not quite so unscrupulous after all -- is certainly made a lot easier by the fact that the people who they steal from are pretty much uniformly complete and utter dickwads.
  • Badass: Will Plunkett.
  • Becoming the Mask: Macleane's love of excess and playing the rich boy start to get the better of him.
  • Big Bad: Thief Taker General Chance.
  • Big Damn Hero: Plunkett has a glorious example of this.
  • Black Comedy: Along side the light humoured stuff, there's some pretty grim humour too.
  • Dances and Balls: A brief but no less elaborate ball is held midway through the movie.
  • Defiant to the End: Despite the fact Macleane is about to be wrongly sentenced to death for murder, he regrets only one thing. And lets the Lords, Ladies and Judge watching know it.

Macleane: I am guilty of one thing for which I am heartily sorry. Namely cheating my friend and fellow highwayman. A man who has more nobility of soul, in his little finger, than any of you bloated bastards have in your entire bodies.

  • Duel to the Death: In the form of 'Pistols at Dawn' subverted in that neither Chance nor Plunkett die. Chance cheats to avoid death whilst Plunkett is only wounded.
  • The Dung Ages: The peasantry are shown to live in some pretty flithy and harsh conditions, which is likely accurate for the very poor of the time. In deliberate contrast to the nobility and filthy rich.
  • Eye Scream: Plunkett's dying partner falls victim to this, courtesy of Chance.
  • Fatal Flaw: Macleane loves women and gambling. You'll never guess what gets him in trouble.
  • Forced to Watch: As if we didn't have enough motivation to hate Chance, he forces Rebecca to watch as Macleane is hanged.

Chance: Open your eyes!

  • Good Times Montage: The duo rack up a shitload of heists and money. Unfortunately a darker undercurrent begins to show as Macleane's pissing it all away on gambling.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: It is the 18th Century nobels being robbed after all.
  • Grave Robbing: James tries this to obtain the ruby at the cemetary, Will's having none of it.
  • Guns Akimbo: Hell yes. Complete with Badass posing.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: We have Begbie & Sickboy, teaming up to rob people? Makes sense.
  • The Highwaymen
  • Historical Domain Character: Sort of. Rochester is presumably a reference to John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who was likewise an Anything That Moves kind of guy, although that Rochester lived around a century before the setting of the film. Likewise, Plunkett and Macleane themselves are inspired by actual highwaymen.
  • Honor Among Thieves: Plunkett swears revenge for his partners death early on and then saves Macleane despite him bringing his hanging on himself and spending all their money. Macleane doesn't share this this sentiment initially but comes to respect Will and regret his selfish actions later on. Even coming back with Rebecca in the tunnels to save Plunkett from Chance's men.
  • Honor Before Reason: Plunkett when he allows Chance his shot in a duel. Despite having every right to deny him, since the general cheated, simply to show him he was the better man. In fact Plunkett's sense of honor causes the above duel in the first place.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Chance acts this way towards Rebecca, who is digusted by his very presence.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Chance is very fond of this.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Chance is killed with a bullet through the eye whilst trying to gouge out someone else's again. Justified in that Plunkett lured him into the situation and probably shot him there in retribution for his ex-partner.
  • Loveable Rogue: Macleane. He's a bit of dick with a gambling problem but he still comes off as likeable.
  • Moe Greene Special: How Plunkett finally takes Chance down.
  • Estrogen Brigade Bait: Macleane obviously. However Plunkett has his a different appeal. Rochester calls him a "delicious bit of rough," and after Plunkett's honourable performance during the duel with Chance, news of his bravery (and his visible injury) lead to some marked interest from a few of the ladies in Macleane's acquaintance.
  • Playing Possum: Used to lethal effect by Plunkett. Who kills Chance when he lets down his guard to try and torture him.
  • Pocket Protector: An odd villainous example Chance survives the duel with Plunkett because he kept a bible over his heart and even declaring Thank God despite clearly being a cowardly cheat.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:

Chance: Does that hurt?
Plunkett: *Grinning* Only when I laugh. *BANG!*

  • Revenge: Plunkett swears this on Chance.
  • Royal Brat: A lot of the rich victims are nothing more than vain spoilt brats.
  • Shoot the Rope: How Plunkett saves his partner Macleane from hanging during the finale.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Plunkett has elements of this.