The Duke

Quaint caper

True story. Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) was a taxi driver and soapbox revolutionary who, to the constant annoyance of his long-suffering wife (Helen Mirren) dabbled in a variety of minor socialist causes, chief among them Britain’s compulsory BBC licensing fees. He even did a bit of jail time for his broadcasting beliefs (they can do that in Britain, you NHK scofflaws). 

In 1961, incensed that the government would spend 140,000 pounds for Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington (“some half-baked portrait by a Spanish drunk), Bunton stole the painting from the National Gallery in London.  As ransom he demanded that the money be spent on free TV for the elderly. He was caught (while returning the painting), leading to a most amusing courtroom battle, as he uses his time in the dock as the public stage he has long sought. 

Roger Michell’s expertly crafted little romp of a film tells this insanely charming tale of a good man making a difference with great British understatement, plenty of dry humor, an unforeseen third-act twist and a terrific denouement (the BBC finally caved). 

Note: worthy readers will have already decided to see this, based solely on the words “Broadbent” and “Mirren” in the first paragraph. Can’t go wrong. (96 min)