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humanist approach takes care of the rest
marian_ryan1315 May 2004
Although it sounds like the premise for a formulaic sitcom, Cowboys and Angels turns out to be something entirely different. This big-hearted crowd pleaser, written and directed by David Gleeson, centers on Shane (Michael Legge), a lonely 20-year-old misfit who moves to the big city and takes on a gay roommate, fashion-design student Victor (Allen Leech).

After some queer-eye advice from the popular, outgoing Victor (new haircut, new wardrobe, new attitude), Shane begins to emerge from his shell. But an incidental friendship with the drug dealer who lives downstairs threatens to wreck his life just as it is beginning to come together.

Refreshingly, Cowboys and Angels uses its characters as people, not types, on its way to detailing Shane's gradual coming-of-age. Even with its brief running time, the movie feels slight and padded: The story technically ends 10 minutes before the movie does. But the lack of the expected gay-straight clichés puts you in a forgiving mood, and Gleeson's upbeat, humanist approach takes care of the rest.
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Colorful, bold and exhilaratingly alive
greenbuff8 April 2004
Flat-mate wanted: apply within. So begins the sweetest straight-gay friendship in recent memory. Shane is a lost and lonely 20 year-old civil servant from the suburbs; he's adorably hetero and has no sense of style. His new roommate in the big city is Vincent, a hot young fashion student, queer, innately stylish, full of life, surrounded by friends, and able to pick up a hot daddy in ten seconds. For Shane, Vincent unlocks buried artistic dreams and a burning need to embrace the adventure of youth. For Vincent, Shane is...well...he's a makeover project, inside and out. And soon enough, he's in serious trouble. Filled with just enough confidence to make just the wrong move, Shane falls in with two drug-dealing thugs downstairs, and things get dangerous fast. As he spins out of control, Vincent flinches from the monster he's created. But the flat has thin walls, and even at their worst, Shane and Vincent never stop listening for each other. Refreshingly, writer/director David Gleeson's vision of this friendship transcends all that we've come to expect from a gay-straight relationship onscreen. The warmth and youthful optimism that emerge from this duo is positively infectious, and Michael Legge and Allen Leech effortlessly bring to life one of the rarest kinds of love. Gleeson's production is polished and lyrical; like Shane's clothing designs, Cowboys and Angels is colorful, bold and exhilaratingly alive.
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warm engaging movie
cantwell49 February 2004
This breezy comedy-drama marks an assured feature film debut for David Gleeson, who traces his interest in film back to his childhood in the Co. Limerick village of Cappamore, where his father ran the local cinema. Set in present-day Limerick City, his film stars Michael Legge, who played the teenaged Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes, but it offers a very different view of the city to the rain-sodden misery of McCourt's early life - and to its Stab City image as the alternative murder capital of Ireland.

The emphasis of this warm, engaging movie is on the friendship that develops between two young men who agree to share an apartment for economic reasons. Shane (Legge) is a shy with girls and already bored with his job as a civil servant, and Vincent (Allan Leech) is a flamboyantly dressed, openly gay fashion design student. Shane's journey of self-discovery is charted with wit and insight in Gleeson's sweet-natured movie, which neatly resolves the potentially awkward moral dilemmas it raises. There is an appealingly natural chemistry between the charming lead actors, and a touching portrayal of a disillusioned older civil servant by Frank Kelly.
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Makers of Headrush, take note!
cantwell412 January 2004
Now here's the right way to do a drama/comedy involving Ireland's drug scene. (Makers of Headrush, take note!) Shane is so young and fresh-faced that we instinctively want to take him on our lap and give him a big hug--even though he's 20. His mother gives him a religious medallion and frets as he moves into a flat in the middle of Limerick. And she's right to. Shane is a lost soul looking for something and/or someone to belong to. His flatmate Vincent, on the other hand, is très cool and seems to have everything under control. We think we know where things are heading, but not everything happens quite exactly the way we expect. Being a movie, things move in a clear arc and do end very tidily, but still this film gets at some real truths about what life is like for young Irish men these days. What seems strange for an Irish movie is its sense of optimism and its celebration of people finding themselves. Shane is played by Michael Legge, whose previous experience playing a Limerick character was as one of three actors to play the young Frank McCourt in Angela's Ashes. Here he makes a very convincing transformation from insecure youth to newly found self-confidence. Allen Leech is likewise convincing as Vincent, who does a queer-eye-for-the-straight-guy number on Shane. Also on hand are David Murray, playing a more menacing version of his character in Flick, and Frank Kelly, managing to erase his "Father Jack" image as Shane's co-worker who symbolizes the dead end of a safe path through life.
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Unexpectedly well done and worthwhile
mikeatlarge5 June 2006
It's rare to come across exceptionally well done movies like this one that manage to stay hidden for years? Cowboys is a genuine rare gem.

This cleverly written Irish drama is highly entertaining and realistic. But it's tilted just a few degrees off axis making it fresh and unpredictable. This is familiar subject matter given a genuine makeover with a few Irish twists. It's the sort of film that makes wading through all the junk at film festivals worthwhile.

On a more technical level, it never feels particularly low budget. The lead actors do a very credible job. The cinematography is honest and the sound, in particular, is way above average for this genre. There are a few stray threads hanging off the seams here and there, but the story and main characters are easily captivating enough to keep your attention elsewhere.

Others obviously consider this a gay themed movie but I don't agree. There's no gay romance and only a brief moments or hints of gay intimacy. There might be a tiny element of "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" here, but it's just one of many small subplots. It's much more a coming of age movie--and, as such, it clearly excels.
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Half-hearted attempt at portraying a friendship
ThrownMuse17 March 2005
Two Irish lads move in together. Vincent is a well-balanced gay art student and Shane is a sheltered and shy civil servant. Through a makeover a la "Queer Eye," Vincent helps Shane gain self-confidence. Unfortunately, Shane falls into the wrong crowd and starts trafficking drugs.

Is this a makeover movie (complete with themes about being true to yourself) or a movie about the Irish drug scene? It tries to be both, but it never finds a good balance. It ultimately strives to be about the relationship between the two young men, but it never really succeeds because the relationship is never fully developed for the viewer. This problem could have been easily avoided--two very endearing deleted scenes should have been kept in the film for sure. There are some random scenes that seem to come out of nowhere, but it all pieces together nicely (perhaps too nicely) in the end. The lead character does some awful things, like being part of a hit and run where a woman is terribly injured and a man is severely beaten when trying to call the cops, but in the end it is all okay because he's a likable guy with a fabulous gay roommate who has unexpectedly got the hook-up. Oh, please. Still, the overall theme of being yourself and true to yourself is great, even if the movie goes about expressing it in a half-assed way. And both lead actors are irresistibly cute.
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'Out' on a 'Limerick'
NJMoon4 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Two Irish lads 'meet cute' in this story of straight and gay roommates that neatly skirts any real peril in favor of an emotional pot of gold for the two main players. With more than it's share of plot contrivances - piling coincidence upon coincidence - it's often tough to stick with the story but the playing of it's two stars Michale Legge as Shane (with his open-faced honesty and good looks) and Allen Leech as Vincent(smirking rakishly and charming us in the bargain) make this a ride worth taking - even as it detours into Dublin drug-running to add a modicum of tension. Amy Shields is the gal pal (relentlessly billed as luminous by the producers, she lives up to the attribution) that is beloved by both (for different reasons, natch). But film's fairy tale fade-out is less than convincing, despite the winning performances and brisk direction.
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Captures the mood of a changing Ireland
johnjredington21 February 2005
It's a low-budget film with little in the way of a storyline and includes some diversions that have little bearing on the overall product. All of this would lead you to dismiss it as a lightweight offering. However, one of the main functions of a movie is to capture a sense of time and place and, in this context, Cowboys & Angels succeeds brilliantly. Even though it was made just two years ago, it has already found a unique position in time that viewers can relate to. It is set in my hometown of Limerick at the turn of the millennium as Ireland was moving from being the poorest country in western Europe to one of the wealthiest. Much of this happened to the bemusement of a population which had grown up on unemployment and emigration and now suddenly found itself surrounded by opportunities it had only dreamed of up to then. And along the way, a certain innocence was lost as a bulging generation of baby-boomers (Ireland's birthrate peaked thirty years later than its neighbours)worked its way through the buzz and the heartaches of transformation. In some ways, it resembles growing-up classics like American Graffiti and Rebel Without a Cause but set in a very different time and place. The main character, superbly played by Michael Legge, captures that wide-eyed innocence that the country was going through at the time while the photography picks up the youthful vitality of the city. While, on the surface, it may be an unremarkable tale about an unremarkable place, the ambiance is absolutely spot-on. Cowboys & Angels is perhaps the most representative contemporary feature film to come out of Ireland during the past decade.
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Funny and well-plotted, but full of holes and poor characterization SPOILERS
Tim Evanson23 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
It's almost unheard of to find a gay-themed movie out of Ireland. But here it is. Wunderkind David Gleeson wrote and directed this, his first feature-film (shot entirely in his native Limerick). 26-year-old Michael Legge (Older Frank in "Angela's Ashes", and having kept off the 30 pounds he lost for that film) plays Shane, a sweet and artistic but fearful young man who is a bit of a mama's boy and geek. Having lost his father in a DUI motor vehicle accident, 18-year-old Shane abandoned college for a secure civil service job. Now, a year later, Shane seeks to move out of his mother's house and into an apartment in the city. But apartments are expensive and not easy to come by.

Soon Shane hooks up with an old schoolmate, Vincent (adorable 23-year-old newcomer Allen Leech). Vincent graduated three years before Shane, and has been attending a local art college. The two move in together.

Vincent is the stereotypical homosexual -- flamboyant, well-dressed, stylish, a good dancer, popular, materialistic. Shane is almost the direct opposite, which tells you right away where this film is headed.

It's not long before Shane is homesick. Limerick is a violent, impersonal place. Shane knows no one. Vincent, however, is picking up tricks right and left (including a handsome older man). Shane's homesickness is worsened by the confessions of Jerry (played with quiet and gentle desperation by the terrific veteran actor Frank Kelly), a civil servant who shares Shane's cubicle. Jerry is on the verge of retirement. But Jerry never married, never had children, and never followed his life's dreams. Now, his life spent, Jerry is overwhelmed by regrets -- regrets which prey on Shane's loneliness.

Shane soon stumbles on a cache of drugs in his apartment building (the incident is not as cheesy or trite as it sounds). When some other tenants almost discover him with the drugs, Shane takes them so he won't be caught. But when Keith, the drug dealer, finds his stash missing, he knows it had to be someone in the building who took them. Keith finds Shane attempting to return the drugs, and decides to co-opt the insecure young man (an ugly and yet realistic twist in the plot).

Shane and Vincent eventually bond, with Shane admitting that he admires the way Vincent easily fits in. (It's a moment of dialogue that had a largely gay audience laughing out loud.) Vincent encourages Shane to try harder, and that means following your dreams and being yourself.

Following Vincent's advice, Shane decides to apply for art school. But the fees and cost of books are horrendously high. Shane makes a fateful decision, and agrees to be a "mule" for one of Keith's drug shipments in return for a large cash payment.

Shane travels to Dublin, where he meets two of Keith's drug buddies. They give him a shipment of drugs to take back to Limerick. But as the three joyride in a stolen car, they smash into another vehicle. Horrified (as his father died in a similar accident), Shane freezes. The two dealers, however, are not and they brutally beat one of the crash victims when he attempts to call for an ambulance for his injured female companion.

Back in Limerick, Shane makes his drop and is rewarded with 800 punts for his trouble. Shane swallows his fears and horror at what he's done, and asks Vincent to turn him into a stylish social butterfly. Vincent gleefully agrees.

Shane is transformed, and soon draws the attention of Vincent's beautiful blond female friend, Gemma. But needing more cash to fund his social experiment, Shane swallows his misgivings and starts helping Keith push drugs. Shane himself begins a downward spiral into drug use. When Vincent confronts him and Shane admits that he's been using drugs, Vincent storms out.

Vincent, however, remains unaware of Shane's larger troubles. He's struggling to complete his senior project -- a fashion show for which he has yet to complete any designs. Although Shane is aware of Vincent's need for assistance, he neglects his new friend as he continues to snort, smoke and drink his way through life.

Things come to a head one night in a club. Shane a pill which makes him loose control. Shane spies Vincent and Gemma dancing, and his drug-induced paranoia causes him to attack Vincent. Gemma punches him out, and Shane is thrown out of the club. That night, Keith takes Shane back to the apartment -- unaware that Gemma and Vincent are sleeping in Vincent's bedroom. Gemma tries to seduce Vincent, and Keith tries to seduce Shane. But both men reject these advances. It's a moment of truth for each, being true to themselves for once. The next day, Shane reconciles with Vincent and helps him with his senior project.

But events begin spiralling out of control. Shane attempts to destroy the drugs in his possession, but completes only half the task when the police burst into the apartment. Finding heroin, pot and crack cocaine, they arrest Shane and Vincent.

Certain they will be indicted for drug dealing and possession, the two are hauled before a local Detective Inspector -- who, it turns out, is the same man Vincent had sex with a few weeks before. The closeted detective lets them go (a ludicrous turn of events).

Off they rush to Vincent's fashion show. It's a wild success -- and stars Shane as the super-model surrounded by hot women in tight clothes.

All's well that ends well: Shane surprises Vincent by using his remaining drug money to buy Vincent an open-ended ticket to New York City, the place Vincent has dreamt of going to pursue being a fashion designer. Shane decides to abandon his cushy civil service job in favor of art school, and the beautiful Gemma falls in love with him.

Shane's learned his lesson: Money and drugs don't make you fit in. Only being true to yourself will get you happiness and what you wish for.

The problems are pretty obvious in the film. Once more, a film tries to be a "dramedy" -- mixing comic laughs with serious drama in a mish-mash that's neither. The worst example of this is during the drug bust in the boys' apartment. It's supposed to be a serious moment, the devastation of all their dreams. Shane, in particular, is in deep trouble. He's been in a hit-and-run, obstructed justice by not reporting the crime, obstructed justice by not reporting the beating, engaged in drug possession and drug use and drug transportation and the sale of drugs, been guilty of assault and battery himself and he's guilty of destruction of evidence. Yet, the film tries to lighten the mood by cracking jokes. The audience really can't take any of the important things in the movie seriously (including the film's anti-drug and be-true-to-yourself messages) when it treats them so cavalierly.

But a deeper problem is the uneven characterization in the film. Shane is played by the extremely likable, decidedly cute -- and terribly talented -- Michael Legge. But there don't seem to be good reasons for what Shane does. Shane tells Vincent that the death of his father had a deep impact on him. Arguably, Shane should now be an anti-drunk driving advocate. (He appears to be: He refuses to go to pubs, despite Vincent's encouragement, and is upset by public drunkeness.) Yet, Shane almost casually tosses away his aversion toward inebriation in order to earn the money to go to art school. Shane's actions wouldn't seem so out of character had Shane's desperation, loneliness and despair seemed deeper and more soul-wrenching. Instead, Shane is depicted as merely being homesick. And why is Shane so deeply influenced by Vincent? After all, Shane barely knows him. Shane's despair is not so apparently awful that Shane should latch onto just any popular person he encountered...and yet, he does so. This would have made more sense had the film spent more time making Vincent into an impossibly powerful, respected, popular person. But, in fact, Vincent is depicted as a bit insecure, and not as personally influential or charismatic as he should be in order for Shane to respond to him as he does.

That exposes another problem in the film, which is the short shrift given the character of Vincent. Vincent is almost a stereoptyical homosexual, a caricature which does little to advance the plausibility of the main story. Indeed, while the heterosexual characters (primarily Shane) seem real and fleshed-out, Vincent remains a goody-two-shoes stereotype. He has no internal life to speak of, and his friendship with Shane remains inexplicable. Indeed, the film's big emotional moment comes when Shane attempts to reconcile with Vincent. Vincent just takes him back -- which implies that Vincent is either some sort of cardboard character who does what the author wants him to, or Vincent is a doormat of a human being who loves forgiving the abusive friends he has. Whichever, it doesn't make Vincent a very appealing or interesting character.

It's these sort of problems that the film stumbles over repeatedly. And although "Cowboys and Angels" is pleasant enough (and, thank god!, Irish), well-acted, funny and interesting, the film really doesn't hold together. By the time Shane and Vincent are released from jail (the coincidence of the inspector being Vincent's trick is just too implausible, and their release is farcical), the audience has largely given up on trying to make sense of things or caring about the characters. There's plenty of heart here, but the script needed re-thinking.

I look forward to David Gleeson's next film, however, and to more from Michael Legge and Allen Leech.
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An Excellent Coming of Age Story Set in Dublin
NYCNetguy15 February 2005
Although there is a gay lead in first-time director David Gleeson's "Cowboys and Angels", this is by no means a gay film, rather a touching and heartwarming story of two young men coming-of-age in the heart of Dublin. Rivaling anything that's on the market today in the way of teen films, this rises above any of them with great performances and a fresh look at some old themes. It might be too sweet at times and neatly wrapped but the Irish charm of the characters keeps it afloat throughout.

Michael Legge plays Shane Butler, a geeky 20 year old lad from the suburbs who has just moved to Dublin. While searching for a flat to rent he stumbles upon a fellow classmate from high school, Vincent (Allen Leech), and the two reconnect when they both happen to be looking at the same apartment to rent. They decide to share it and Shane's adventure in the big city begins.

Shane is straight, has a quiet demeanor, and looks like his mom dressed him, while Vincent is more outgoing, dresses and looks funky, oh, and is gay. The two don't quite hit it off at first, but their friendship develops over time and Vincent takes him under his wing, as a friend and partly as a fashion project. Shane falls for a girl named Gemma (Amy Shiels) who works in a nearby burger joint, and it just so happens an old classmate of Vincent's. Shane has a hard time making the connection with her and is envious of her and Vincent's friendship. To make matters worse, Shane finds some drugs in the buildings lobby, he gets caught by the dealer (David Murray), and is then offered a large sum of money to make a run. He takes the offer hoping the money can either buy him a new wardrobe or help put him into art school and get him out of his dead-end job at the civil service department. A subplot involves a coworker named Jerry that is truly touching. In any event, Shane falls into the wrong crowd and friendships are tested, hearts broken, and loved ones lost. But in the end, true friendship endures and you can't help be touched by either one, the cowboy or angel.
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