When the most common way that a film is described is by comparing it to another successful film, you know you”re in trouble. Phrases like “this is the new “Thelma and Louise”” should set off a loud alarm that tells you that a “by the numbers” movie is at hand. Mel Smith”s “High Heels and Low Lifes” tries to mix comedy and action with more than a hint of “you go girl” attitude (Somebody actually yelled that at one point, I swear), and the result is a tired, recycled film that doesn”t offer anything new.
Set in London, the film follows the adventures of Shannon (Minnie Driver, “Grosse Pointe Blank”), a nurse who spends too much time working and who has a boyfriend who doesn”t appreciate her. After he ditches her on her birthday, she finds solace with her friend Frances (Mary McCormack, “K-PAX”), a loud and assertive American who is also an unsuccessful actress. They go out clubbing to drown their sorrows, but later, at Shannon”s, while messing around with Shannon”s boyfriend”s digital sampling material (don”t ask), they overhear a conversation about a bank heist in progress in their neighborhood.
When their attempts to contact the police are unsuccessful, they decide that the next best thing is to blackmail the bank robbers. Little do they know that the people involved in the heist are much more dangerous and determined than a few thugs. As they are drawn deeper into a dangerous situation, they try to return to their normal lives but realize that they must see their job through to the end.
The movie is supposed to be a pretty equal mix of comedy and action sequences, which would be fine if either one of those was a successful effort. Director Mel Smith (best known as the albino in “The Princess Bride”) cannot bear all the responsibility for bringing us once again to the “pitssss of despaaair,” for it was written by Kim Fuller, who wrote and produced “Spice World.”
Driver is one of the only points of light in the film, for her delivery and her timing are well-honed, but her chemistry with McCormack is severely lacking, and the villains are caricatures of real bad guys and not menacing in the least. Sometimes this silliness is deliberate, such as when Mason (Kevin McNally), one of the thieves, is sitting in his garden, shooting at a bunny with an automatic weapon (at least, I hope that was supposed to be funny ).
This painfully unfunny stock comedy doesn”t break any new ground or yield any mindless entertainment. Every element of the plot and every piece of dialogue is straight from the book, and even the parts that have potential to be interesting (who doesn”t like a good bank robbery) have been done better. The safe deposit robbery in “Sexy Beast” was far superior to this one. The blackmailing in “Zero Effect” was much more suspenseful and unpredictable than the one in “High Heels.” The relationship between Thelma and Louise was no, wait, that movie sucked too. But you get the idea.