Touchstone Pictures // 2001 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 9th, 2002
They're not bad girls, they're just behaving that way.
First there was Thelma and Louise. Then there was...uh...err...was there anyone else? I can't remember. Well, whatever void was left after T&L is now filled with the appearance of Shannon and Francis in actor/director Mel Smith's action comedy High Heels and Low Lifes. Pairing up actresses Minnie Driver (Circle Of Friends, Good Will Hunting) and Mary McCormack (Howard Stern's Private Parts, Mystery, Alaska) in a film about fast cars, deadly crooks and mistaken identity, Touchstone Pictures proudly presents High Heels and Low Lifes on DVD!
Shannon (Driver) is a registered nurse in a London emergency room. Francis (McCormack) is an aspiring American actress that's going nowhere fast. Together these two women are about to take on a group of bank robbers for the scam of a lifetime! After the Francis and Shannon catch a bank robbery in progress via a cell phone and some wiretapping equipment, the girl's decide that instead of turning in the bad guys to the police they'll attempt to blackmail them out of some of their hard-stolen cash! Disguised as some big time hoodlums on the phone, Shannon and Francis proceed to threaten the men, led by the nasty Mason (Kevin McNally), and arrange a drop off for a bag full of money. When their scheme falls on the ears of crime boss Kerrigan (Michael Gambon, Sleepy Hollow), things really start to take a turn for the worse! Now the girls have a crime syndicate after them, as well as two bumbling police officers who seem to be almost as clueless as our heroines! With a little lipstick, some nail polish, and an AK-47, these girls are about to take down a few notorious criminals and find out that "sisters are doin' it for themselves!" (I couldn't figure out how to end that sentence, so I just stole some song lyrics from the end of the movie)
High Heels and Low Lifes easily falls under the category of "movies I didn't want to see but enjoyed nonetheless." Here is a movie that looks like a chick flick and smells like a chick flick, but turned out to be a fun romp with more than a few nifty action sequences. I only vaguely remember this movie hitting the theaters, and then disappearing just as fast. Indeed it was a strange mix -- on one hand it was sort of like an independent overseas movie, yet its leads were Hollywood actresses and the story/production values were relatively high. Chances are that most of the movie going public missed this little caper and won't run for the rental shelves once it hits DVD. This is a sad fact, since it's really an entertaining little movie.
Director Mel Smith has fashioned a sometimes edgy comedy filled with funny dialogue and a fast paced story. The script isn't anything overtly new. What makes this movie fresh is the zippy execution. The always entertaining and sexy Minnie Driver fares best here, though she's given a run for her money by the snappy and sarcastic Mary McCormack. Both ladies are smart (well, maybe not when it comes to robbing robbers) and their delivery of their lines is usually very witty and precise. The girls' exchanges reminded me of classic road movies where two characters are thrown together, often quibbling and snapping at each other. The supporting cast is equally as good, led by the grumbling Michael Gambon and the dangerous Kevin McNally (who brings a violent realism to the usually comedic story).
Upon reflection, High Heels and Low Lifes is a fairly fluffy comedy/action movie. It's nothing spectacular or flashy, but it does entertain to a high degree. Director Mel Smith (himself a funny character actor in such films as National Lampoon's European Vacation and the vastly underrated Brain Donors), whose first film Bean was mercilessly panned by critics in 1997, shows that he's a good director with the right scripts, and with bad scripts...well, let's just say Bean won't be the highpoint of anyone's film career. Neither will High Heels and Low Lifes, but it's miles above Smith's previous effort and hits just the right spot on a lazy Friday night.
High Heels and Low Lifes is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Touchstone/Buena Vista has done a fine job of making sure that this transfer looks new, crisp, and clean. I was impressed with how vivid the colors appeared in this transfer, and the black levels were equally as solid and evenly rendered. The only real problem I spotted was a few instances of edge enhancement in a few key scenes. Otherwise, this is a very nice looking picture.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. While you wouldn't think it to look at it, High Heels and Low Lifes features a very bombastic and full 5.1 mix. There is a lot of directional use utilized in this mix, and more importantly, the soundtrack is clear of any hiss or distortion. Rear, front, and center speakers are all given a healthy workout with the bass coming in clear and thick. Overall this is a fine Dolby 5.1 presentation. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
While High Heels and Low Lifes may not be packed to the brim with extra features, it does include a few nice supplements. To start off with there is a commentary track by director Mel Smith and writer Kim Fuller. This is a funny track that features a lot of behind-the-scenes stories, as well as Mel Smith shouting out with presentational pride, "Michael Gambon's ass, everybody!" after Gambon's character rises from a whirlpool. This comment alone is worth the price of this disc. This isn't the most exciting commentary every recorded, but it is enjoyable on its own terms.
Also included on the disc is a nearly 20-minute promotional featurette cleverly titled "High Heels and Low Lifes" featuring interviews with director Mel Smith, actors Mary McCormack, Minnie Driver, Kevin McNally, and Michael Gambon, writer Kim Fuller, producer Uri Fruchtmann (say that three times fast), and a few other cast and crew members. This piece is typical promo stuff that includes some behind-the-scenes footage, a bunch of clips from the film, and people discussing character motivation, the script, et cetera. Also included on this disc is a weird "Action Overload" montage of images and dialogue from the film set to music. I haven't the foggiest idea why this montage was included, but it's here for your viewing pleasure.
I rather enjoyed this frothy little action comedy. Who'da thunk it? I think this is a great date movie: it's got empowered women using Uzis for the ladies, and some stuff blowing up for the guys. Touchstone has done a fine job on this disc, though the exclusion of a theatrical trailer is somewhat baffling.
High Heels and Low Lifes is acquitted on most charges due to Minnie Driver...she's easy on the eyes. Grrrroooowwl!
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary with Writer Kim Fuller and Director Mel Smith
* "Action Overload" Montage
* "High Heels and Low Lifes" Montage