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The real-life story of Dublin folk hero and criminal Martin Cahill, who pulled off two daring robberies in Ireland with his team, but attracted unwanted attention from the police, the IRA, the UVF and members of his own team. Written by
Andrew Wong <email@example.com>
Being Irish-American, I can tell this; there's an old joke about an Irishman who washes ashore of a new country and asks the first person he sees, "What kind of government do they have here?" The person tells him, and the Irishman responds, "Well, whatever it is, I'm against it." Martin Cahill, from what I know, would seem to share that sentiment, but not out of any political bent; indeed, he's all the more fascinating for being completely apolitical. He just rails against any government that, by definition, is there to ensure he can't make a living at the thing he likes to do the most; steal from the rich.
John Boorman's portrayal of Cahill, nicknamed THE GENERAL(the title of this movie), portrays him as the thug he can be, not only in his viciousness(the famous pool table scene), but also his selfishness(as soon as he's successful, the only "poor" he gives to after robbing the rich is himself and the rest of the gang), yet allows him his delusions of grandeur; after all, isn't that all we often have to fall back on? Of course, Cahill is quite talented at what he does, using ingenuity as much as brute force to get what he wants, like going to talk to police inspector Ned Kenny(Jon Voight) while his men are robbing a bank, not just to keep Kenny occupied, but to give himself an alibi(the look on Voight's face when he realizes he's been set up is alone worth the price of admission).
Brendan Gleeson, a regular in Irish movies(and recently seen in LAKE PLACID), makes everything Cahill does seem somehow normal, even his habit of hiding his face with his hand when he wants to avoid unpleasantness, or the fact that he lives with both his wife and her sister(Maria Doyle Kennedy and Angeline Ball, from THE COMMITMENTS), even, of course, his job. Obviously, we're not supposed to like Cahill, but like Inspector Kenny, we develop a sneaking admiration for him just the same(if there's a flaw, it's we see Kenny sinking to the level of Cahill once by punching him out, but we don't see the character arc there).
Boorman is obviously a great visual director(much has been made of the black-and-white photography - too much, in my humble opinion - while not enough has been made of his use of quick fades, which lend it a dreamlike quality), but he needs a good story to engage him. When he doesn't have it, like in BEYOND RANGOON or - sad to say, for me for the most part - DELIVERANCE, it's all empty. When he does have it, like in POINT BLANK or HOPE AND GLORY, it's engaging and compelling, and he has a great story here(isn't it funny that while he's know for his visual work, his best films, like this and HOPE AND GLORY, he also wrote?). A terrific biopic.
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