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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 I.R.A., the U.V.F., and members of his own team.

Director:

John Boorman

Writers:

John Boorman, Paul Williams (novel)
9 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Brendan Gleeson ... Martin Cahill
Adrian Dunbar ... Noel Curley
Sean McGinley ... Gary
Maria Doyle Kennedy ... Frances
Angeline Ball ... Tina
Jon Voight ... Inspector Ned Kenny
Eanna MacLiam Eanna MacLiam ... Jimmy
Tom Murphy Tom Murphy ... Willie Byrne
Paul Hickey ... Anthony
Tommy O'Neill Tommy O'Neill ... Paddy
John O'Toole John O'Toole ... Shea
Ciarán Fitzgerald ... Tommy
Ned Dennehy ... Gay
Vinny Murphy Vinny Murphy ... Harry (as Vinnie Murphy)
Roxanna Nic Liam Roxanna Nic Liam ... Orla (as Roxanna Williams)
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Storyline

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 I.R.A., the U.V.F., and members of his own team.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He was a world-class criminal and a working-class hero. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and pervasive language | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Sony Pictures Classics

Country:

UK | Ireland

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 December 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

I Once Had a Life See more »

Filming Locations:

Wicklow Mountains, Ireland See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£286,365 (United Kingdom), 31 May 1998, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$26,771, 20 December 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,211,865, 23 May 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the film was shown in theaters, it was in black-and-white, but when it aired on American cable television networks, it was shown in color. See more »

Goofs

Set in 1984, the background of the anti-drug march features a car with a license plate beginning with "96," indicating 1996. See more »

Quotes

Frances: [referring to her sister] Why do go around and see Tina? I don't mind.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Home video version is colorized. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Another accomplished performance by Brendan Gleeson, Ireland's Depardieu
28 July 2000 | by dan-476See all my reviews

John Boorman's 'The General' was always going to be a controversial movie and a tough sell for its filmmakers.

It's anti-hero, Martin Cahill was Ireland's most infamous criminal of recent times - so much so that there has been four screen depictions of him (Ken Stott in The Vicious Circle, Kevin Spacey in Ordinary Decent Criminal, Pete Postlethwaite in When The Sky Falls and Brendan Gleeson in The General).

He was guilty of some of the country's most outrageous crimes and capable of real brutality - most notably, injuring a forensic scientist in a car bomb and literally nailing one of his gang members to the floor.

Add into the mix the fact that the film has a largely Irish cast deploying thick Dublin accents and that Boorman chose to shoot it in black and white and you have a movie which wasn't exactly going to jump out at international and especially, US audiences demanding to be loved.

The result is perhaps Boorman's finest work, certainly on a par with the wonderful 'Hope and Glory'.

The film is also by a furlong the best of the four movies depicting Cahill's life.

This is in large part due to the brilliant performance of Irish actor, Brendan Gleeson in the central role.

The Irish Depardieu not only physically transforms himself into Cahill but captures the rebellious spirit, the intelligence and the charm.

It would have been easy to depict Cahill as a monster.

However, Gleeson and Boorman treat their audience with respect, building up a character with shades of darkness and light.

On one hand, viewers are given an appreciation of how "The General" was able to command the love of two sisters, his children and the adulation of his criminal associates.

However, Boorman's film is certainly no love letter to Cahill. We also see his sadistic side as in the bombing of the forensic scientist's car and crucifixion of one of his gang members, his lack of consideration and compassion for the 100 workers laid off at a storeroom he has robbed, his cold bargaining with the sexually abused daughter of one of his gang members.

The supporting cast also put in fine performances too.

Jon Voight not only masters the rural Irish brogue of the Garda (police) inspector bedevilled by Cahill but also the attitudes. It is a tough but ultimately sympathetic performance of a cop dragged unwillingly into the gutter.

Maria Doyle Kennedy and Angeline Ball give charming performances as the sisters who were also the women in Cahill's rather unorthodox life, with Ciaran Fitzgerald also making a sympathetic son.

Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley and Eanna MacLiam all put in spirited performances as members of Cahill's gang. McGinley, in particular, creates another memorably seedy performance as Gary.

Special mention should also go to Pat Laffan as a brutish Garda sergeant.

With it's cracking script, Richie Buckley's musical score and the black and white camerawork, 'The General' is easily up there with the best of modern movies made in Ireland (certainly, up there with Neil Jordan's 'The Butcher Boy' and Alan Parker's 'The Commitments').

It is a must see - a film which demands cult status.


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