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Duke, The  (DVD)


Stars: Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Fionn Whitehead, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Goode, James Wilby

Director: Roger Michell

Kempton Bunton (Broadbent) was an eccentric but largely well-meaning 1960s' Tynesider who ran a campaign for free TV licences for OAPs, refused to pay tax and wrote never-to-be-produced plays, meantime working as a taxi driver and in a bread factory to support wife (an almost unrecognisable Mirren) and son (Whitehead).

Set in 1961 and buoyed by the twinkly charm of Broadbent and the effective soft-level waspishness of Mirren, the film, often shot in shades of brown, is not as light as it would like to be, apart from a few fruity exchanges in court after Kempton is accused of stealing a £140,000 painting of the Duke of Wellington by Goya from the National Gallery, an action that government agents immediately attribute to 'an international armed gang' or 'a trained commando'.

The ensuing trial is the most ingratiating section of this rather muted movie, with Goode as the wry defending counsel (who was married to the actress Peggy Ashcroft) channelling old actor Michael Denison with much success.

David Quinlan

UK 2020. UK Distributor: Pathe (20th Century Studios). Colour by Panalux.
91 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 25 May 2022