The General (1998) Poster


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Another accomplished performance by Brendan Gleeson, Ireland's Depardieu
dan-47628 July 2000
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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What quality filmmaking is all about, in "General".
ToldYaSo16 August 1999
In a small way, I'm almost glad that all films aren't as good as "The General". It's dripping with one of those intangible elements that seems to escape other films. Sheer quality craftsmanship and excellent storytelling.

There's a very rich quality to this film. What we see on screen merely scrapes the surface of a full history that is eluded to but not entirely exposed explicitly, which is what I think works best to keep interests up. Just brilliant film work in every regard makes this story come to life. Crime, ethics, political standpoints and complex relationships.

Martin Cahill, the film's central character, is the anti-hero thief, something of a modern day Robin Hood but much more visceral. I understand that John Boorman was allegedly one of Cahill's break-in victims. From what we see in the film, he remains constant to his own beliefs and principles, even if that means breaking the law at every turn. His schemes and plots to outwit the cops are so simple and effective you can't help but like him. He's very clever despite a lack of education, and he doesn't shift to the world around him as much as it shifts for him. His biggest weakness appears to be cream filled pastries. Even if he's been beaten, he won't allow his adversaries the pleasure of seeing him suffer in any way.

I don't know how faithful the film is to the truth, history or the spirit of Cahill's actions. But one thing I do know is that the superb craftsmanship of this film should propel it on to everyone's must see list, but that's not too likely to be. At least for North American audiences this film has many things going against it. It's in black and white. The Irish accents are thick and difficult to understand at times. It doesn't seem to have the sort of advertising campaign that it deserves. And worst of all, it appears to have unanimous critical acclaim. Often great films aren't hits, they don't strike a chord with the masses, but in my book, that's fine. You can only tell the quality of a great film in comparison to one that's inferior. Personal taste aside, this film is simply done extremely well.
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Gangster Movie in Classic Tradtion
hammy-315 December 1998
If you're watching one of the Classic Warner Brothers Gangster movies on tv and someone asserts that "They don't make 'em like that anymore", here's a movie to prove them wrong. As real-life Dublin gangster Martin Cahill Irish actor Brendan Gleeson provides a criminal hero to compare with those played by Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney. Brutal and Compassionate by turns, Gleeson's Cahill eschews links to anything outside himself and his home and circle of acquaintances. Hating the state, he turns Ireland's liberal justice system upon itself; hating the media, he blocks his face from TV cameras. Ultimately, it's this status as an existential outsider that brigs about his tragic downfall, but along the way there are moments of incredible comedy as the Gardai, or Irish Police are made to look like bumbling Keysone cops. The monochrome cinematograhy gives an excellent verite effect and the supporting cast with Jon Voight and a host of Irish stalwarts, are superb.
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A great film, note to DVD viewers
drxym17 January 2002
This is a great film, but I should warn people who are watching this on DVD that some versions ship with a black and white on one side and a colour version on the other.

Do not watch the colour version! For some reason this version has different dialogue (and possibly editing) particularly with regards to swearing - freaking replaces f**king etc. I don't know why this is so but maybe the movie was watered down to get some lesser rating. Whatever the reason, watch the black and white version and see the movie as it was meant to be seen.
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Excellent movie, well acted but perhaps which serves perhaps to glorify an otherwise utterly contemptable character
elkringo7 May 1999
In terms of acting, direction and entertainment value, the general certainly delivers. Its is well paced, humorous and the performances of all the main actors, in particular Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight, are excellent. I'm not sure why the film is shot in black and white, I don't think this adds particularly to the film.

My one reservation about the film is the portrayal of the main character, Martin Cahill, whom I think is overly glamorised. I remember before Cahills death his exploits as I saw them in the newspapers and television, and from the many stories which circulated around Dublin at that time of his criminal activity. This was no latter day Robin Hood. He was an unusually successful thief, no doubt, but with none of the charitable spirit. He was also extremely cruel, at one time breaking into the home of a social welfare officer and torturing him for hours simply because he had refused Cahill welfare payments.

I would recommend people to see this film, but at all times remember that the man it portrays was no one to be admired, but an example of the most vile thugs that Ireland has had the shame to produce in recent years. But then they say, "The devil has the best tales".
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Gritty and Brutal Portrayal
gbheron2 March 2003
"The General" is the nickname of the real-life, contemporary Irish criminal, Martin Cahill. Brilliantly played by Brendan Gleeson, director John Boorman dramatizes Cahill's odd career as a very successful thief and robber. Shot in black and white the movie has a gritty realism that doesn't glamorize Cahill and his gang. But Cahill, as portrayed by Gleeson and Boorman, is a likable and quirky eccentric who does things his own way, a characteristic which causes him to fall afoul of both the police and the IRA.

Not your typical A-List Hollywood crime melodrama, this movie is not for everyone, especially those looking for the typical Vin Diesel or Al Pacino crime flick. This is more like the Sopranos in the Irish slums. And, I recommend it highly for a Saturday night rental; just be forewarned that it is quite brutal and intense at times.
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Superbly drawn character study of infamous Irish criminal
pooch-814 August 1999
Brendan Gleeson's performance as notorious Irish master criminal Martin "The General" Cahill is a small miracle. Alternating between a brash swagger and a sullen fatalism, Gleeson utterly transforms himself (I love how he hides his face simply by cocking his head down and shielding it with his hand, peeking out between splayed fingers) into the charismatic thief. Director and screenwriter John Boorman, who delighted in revealing that he had once been robbed of a gold record by the real-life Cahill (he references it anecdotally in the film) has done some of his best work here, creating a totally engrossing character study that includes tense robberies, playful confrontations with the police, and eyebrow-raising relationships, but he never forgets to maintain the delicate balance between the light-hearted (and light-fingered) humor and the danger and desperation inherent in a high-profile life of crime.
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No frills, just good story telling.
charlietuna19 March 2001
Boorman if nothing else is a good story teller. As a director, his greatest triumph came early in his career with Deliverance. Yet as a writer, he has brought us quality films such as Excalibur, and Hope & Glory. His adaptation of the Paul Williams novel is straight forward and without frills. Martin Cahill had many aspects to his life that could have easily become the fodder for an over zealous director. Rather than seeking to build a "background" story out of his love triangle, Boorman handles it with style and two scenes. The movie is meant to tell you about the rise and fall of Martin Cahill with a watchful eye to the social and political forces in Ireland. Boorman does just that. The scenes are well thought out and the acting solid. While this movie never hit the critical radar in America, it was praised both in Britain and at Cannes. When your in the mood for a story of a gangster who became a populist hero, take a look at this film. But if you want swift action scenes and graphic violence, it may be time for another viewing of Bonnie and Clyde.
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Terrific biopic
SKG-22 September 1999
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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The perfect anti-hero
290554 January 1999
There are few modern directors whom I respect as well as John Boorman. His biopics are always keenly observed, and he has a great eye for the comic moment. Cahill, history tells us, was a vicious thug - his only redeeming qualities, Boorman tells us, were his love for his family and comrades. Even if a few of Cahill's blemishes were airbrushed out to present him as a modern day Robin Hood, what the hell, it makes great cinema. Cahill is the perfect anti-hero, and with Boorman's decision to show us the ending at the beginning - we know that he ultimately pays the ultimate price for his crimes.

No point in harping on about the use of monochrome photography. I don't particularly think it matters - it just makes me wish I was watching Casablanca. But the principal actors are perfect. Brendan Gleeson and Adrian Dunbar make a fine pairing, and Jon Voight as Cahill's nemesis, Inspector Ned Kenny, is surprisingly good at the Irish accent, and back to his best form as an actor.

Boorman, although not as prolific, deserves to be regarded alongside Scorsese, Coppola and Kubrik for his insight into humanity and the sometimes strange bonds that result. No other modern directors do this as well as the above mentioned.
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no matter what happens at any moment--no matter the intended impact--the only reaction you get from this rather flimsy gangster movie is " what?"
TheUnknown837-13 August 2009
Like with any movie genre, there are good gangster movies and there are bad gangster movies. If you asked me to name a good gangster movie, I'd have dozens to choose from. If you asked me to name a bad gangster movie, probably the first one to pop up in my mind is one that still has me in a sort of depression of disappointment about a week since I saw the film for the first and I promise you, the last time. That film is "The General", unrelated to the 1926 silent film of the same name. This is a very dry, very slow gangster epic that raises questions not about the story (it's more than easy to follow) but about why the filmmakers chose to make this rather flimsy endeavor.

Like "Goodfellas" (1990) and "American Gangster" (2007)—two superior mob movies—"The General" is based on real people and true events. The film revolves around an Irish criminal named Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) who started his long chain of crimes stealing food as a teenager and then moving up to robbing museums and houses as an adult. Meanwhile, the police led by an inspector named Kenny (Jon Voight) try desperately and vigorously to prove just one of his crimes and convict (or kill) him.

Perhaps because it's a film in the same category as the marvelous "Goodfellas" (1990) and the first two "Godfather" films, I was expecting too much from "The General." But that may be going too easy on it. This would have been a bad film had I not seen the aforementioned masterpieces before being swamped by boredom in this oater and its far-too-stretched running time of screaming bad scenes. Let's start knocking the film by just looking at the style in which it is presented. For some reason, director John Boorman and cinematographer Seamus Deasy selected to film this movie in black-and-white while its style and presentation are clearly the elements that belong to a full-fledged color film. Now I have nothing against b/w pictures, not even ones made in modern-day times. "Schindler's List" (1993) was more than ninety percent filmed in black-and-white and it's a masterpiece. "The General", made just five years after "Schindler's List" is not. The cinematography is also far too blown out with high lighting keys that seem very distracting and give the movie a very video-game-like quality that I found simply annoying. The filmmakers were obviously going for a realist's documentary-like style, like "Schindler's List" did, but they fail by making it seem too much like a documentary and at the same time, too much like a classic-style motion picture. Performances in the film range from passable to poor. Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight gave decent enthusiasm for their roles, but it seemed to me at times that even they were getting kind of run down by the awful screenplay from which they were quoting. The sound design is also very primitive, probably in an attempt to give it a 40s crime-noir appeal, but that also fails because again, it's made too much like a contemporary picture and seems vastly out of place.

But the worst thing that occurs is that there's not one—not one—character in the film that I felt any emotions or opinions for. In fact, for every moment of every scene, the only thought going through my head was "okay…so what?" Moments that in a better film might come across as shocking or appalling are just dull and time-consuming here. I did not sympathize or hate the Brendan Gleeson character because the way the Cahill character is written is simply flat and dull. Gleeson just plays the common criminal and does not strike out with the impact the real Martin Cahill obviously did. If a character is killed off (as they always are in gangster films), we feel nothing. No remorse, no relief, no surprise, nothing. We just say "so what?" And that's all I did during the entire running time of this very flimsy, very poorly-made crime film.
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the general is a
somf20 November 1998
Just had to write that one liner, but it really is. I love the gangster genre and this is the weakest entry I've seen in recent years . I have praises for everyone involved in most aspects except the most important one, the script . It is a weak story about a petty criminal. No amount of fine acting or black and white film styling can make up for a total lack of substance. I love Kevin Spacey and I hear he's gonna do another film about the general. My advice is don't waste your time.
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Cowardly Film
mairtin-27 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A craven, cowardly film. Director Boorman shows Cahill burglarizing rich houses, but the male occupant is shown being unfaithful with the nanny, thats all right then. The forensic scientist investigating Cahill is blown up in his car, but he is rat faced sourpuss, and doesn't look like a nice man, so thats all right too. The Beits, owner of Russborrough House, made their money by exploiting 'darkies' digging up diamonds, so it's okay to rob priceless art from them and hide it in a bunker in the Wicklow mountains. The Garda kill his ferrets and are implicated in his murder. The moral equivalencing is sickening, Boorman looks for a hit film, but doesn't have the guts to stand against the criminality of the generals gang, who terrorized the neighbourhood, and unleashed another wave of scumbags upon Dublin. He even liaised with the Generals son while making it. Disgusting. Shame on him for his cowardice.
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Very funny and quite black
Dan-1531 June 1999
This is Boorman's finest film for many years and is dominated by a memorable performance by Brendan Gleeson who has created a character who combines joviality, clownishness and warmth with moral ambiguity and a capacity for great violence. Voight supports well (although there will always be something mannered about his performances) and produces a pretty solid Irish accent. All other supporting players are excellent. Boorman directs well and delivers a very balanced portrayal of what was obviously a very complicated man capable of great charm and love as well also acts of real darkness.
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Very funny, enjoyable tale that is equal handed if a little sentimental
bob the moo5 December 2002
Martin Cahill is an Irish thief but is generally a well mannered man with a good sense of humour. His actions draw the attention of the police, although he always manages to stay one step ahead of them. However his life is one of crime and violence and a major art robbery brings him to be the focus of a police investigation and brings the IRA demanding a cut. When a deal is made with the UVF Cahill's position becomes increasingly untenable.

Films about the troubles (or around the troubles) in Northern Ireland usually tend to put me off because they often wear their colours very large on their sleeves and seem more interesting in scoring political points than telling a good story. However this happily manages to avoid that and tells a Robin Hood style tale that is fairly well told.

Cahill is a little romanticised in that he has a great sense of humour and is very likeable, but the film doesn't hold back from showing the violence of the life with Cahill having to do nasty stuff as well. For me it worked so well because of the gentle comedy that ran through the story, but it still held plenty of drama and the characters (especially Cahill) held my attention easily.

Gleeson gives a great performance. He has got Cahill's little habits down really well – the covering of the face at every opportunity etc. Dunbar is good as are most of the support cast. Voight is an interesting bit of casting that is only used occasionally. However it is really Gleeson's show and his good humour carries the film easily.

Overall this film is very entertaining with a dark edge to it. The story is very enjoyable itself but with the dark humour provided by Gleeson it is even better.
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Fat sociopath gets comeuppance
jd-1169 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film just after having sat through The Sopranos, and was struck by the similarities.

The central character is a fat sociopath who leads a life of crime including armed robbery, murder, torture and perverting the course of justice. He is surrounded by a small army of other low-lives who carry out his instructions.

None of the characters is engaging, and I personally didn't give a damn what happened to any of them, except that I was quite pleased when the Cahill character got rubbed out, which happens at the very start of the film. (The rest of what you see is a flash-back.) On the positive side, at least you didn't have to watch 6 whole series of one-hour episodes to reach the denouement, and there's a decent performance from Jon Voigt. I'm not Irish but I thought his accent was pretty good.
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Outstanding Dynamic
vicmck4 June 2000
The General is one of the best films dealing with true life that I have seen. John Boorman has done us all proud both as director and in the Writing credits. As Martin Cahill Brendan Gleeson who bears an uncanny resemblance to the real Cahill is superb bringing with him the humor as well as the hardcore attitude of the Dublin underworld. Well deserved the B.F.C. awards for best director and best actor. This is one for your library as you will want to watch it again and again.
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Rare modern gangster picture with something to do and say.
Pedro_H6 February 2005
Martin Cahill was perhaps one of the strangest gangsters Europe - no matter Ireland - ever had. One of those lives that no fiction would have touched because it goes so much against the grain. One of those gangsters that took on the police head on and seemed to mix cruel intentions (including attempted murder) with black comedy.

Cahill wasn't really a successful criminal because his game ended up lost. How I won't say, but there is only two options. Think about it. His only success was keeping the inevitable at bay for as long as he did. This film is about the how and why.

The two posters boys are John Voight (Inspector Ned Kenny) and Brendan Gleeson as Cahill himself. Voight brings a bit of Hollywood to the piece but looks out of place - his accent is not at all bad though.

This film has a lot of natural humour because Cahill seemed to enjoy a joke. Taunting an enemy is actually not that clever a ploy when the enemy is the state and he learns this the hard way. Despite what Cahill believed you can't be both an outlaw and a family man. Professionals talks about "living in boxes" and this what Cahill attempted. Family man one minute - cold blooded torturer the next.

What I liked best was the onlookers and the family. Cahill is a criminal who doesn't pretend anything else. However he has weak jellyfish people around him - people that take his favours and therefore his blood money. There is not a Robin Hood story - his actions put good people out of work.

This is a focus on one man and the script isn't clever enough to weave any dimension in to the minor characters. They are people that seem to spend their life nodding and agreeing - they are weak in the face of someone with a brain and ideas.

This is the kind of stuff that the British industry can do. It is small - it is even in black and white - and it achieves what it sets out to do. It carries you through to the end and lingers in the memory, but it makes only limited appeal to a world audience who are not in-tune with Irish politics. Any other country would have fought dirty tricks with dirty tricks - that is why Cahill never went to the British mainland to steal.
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an incomplete dinner
gkarasik4 January 1999
This film's main fault is the same one made by so many directors who attempt to make films about "true-life" events or "real-life" characters: These directors believe that there's so much drama and interest inherent in the event or character they're portraying that they forget to give us a complete film.

This is clearly what happened here. John Boorman recreates for us what I guess are famous parts of the Martin Cahill (aka The General) legend, but he leaves out of the script much indication of who this man is or why he turned out the way he did. And if, like me, you'd never heard of him, you're left wondering what you're supposed to be getting from this film. It's not terribly funny; it's not terribly clever; and Cahill as he's portrayed by Brendan Gleeson, is not terribly smart. What he is is bold and ruthless in a way that the (as portrayed by Boorman) mild Irish temperament is not equipped to handle.

I suspect that this film would play better for an Anglo-Irish audience, people who knew who Cahill was and who understood the culture in which he developed. For me, it wasn't a good caper movie, it wasn't a good comedy, and it wasn't a good character study.

And I'm getting a little overfull of films portraying the Irish as large leprechauns.
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I liked it, despite a few niggly flaws
mvd30 July 1999
The General is a movie probably only truly appreciated by those familiar with the environment it was based on. For many American viewers, I feel the black humour is lost and they might expect it purely to be classic gangster movie where the plot leaves an air of tension through a developing story and a series of climaxing events. Im sorry but Hollyfield is definitely not Hollywood! I think that might explain some of the 'boring' commentary in previous reviews. As for my own views, i think it is an excellent movie which is interesting, witty and depressing. What makes it so is a central character who can be so creative and innovative with a pronounced intelligence and set of values BUT who wastes these assets through devoting his life to crime, self indulgence and power. The character of Martin Cahill is not portrayed accurately in the film as he is seen as a likeable rogue whereas the real General was a brutal, horrific thug who despite all the interesting facets to his personality, was ultimately beyond redemption. So that is my chief gripe with the film but it does not deter from a fantastic movie which is extremely enjoyable, about the life of Dublin's most enigmatic crimelord. For a more accurate portrayal of the actions of The General, i would suggest reading the book by Paul Williams on the man himself. For those of you who found the film boring, i would suggest never watching another movie made in 'real ireland' again, because you will not have the appreciation for the background, dialogue or humour at all.

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Well-made film, but a morally abhorrent subject
JoeytheBrit28 July 2008
John Boorman's highly-feted 'comeback' picture is an entertaining tale that is fatally undermined by its almost light-hearted depiction of a vicious career criminal who thought nothing of intimidating witnesses to prevent them testifying against him and who matter-of-factly nails the hands of one of his cohorts, whom he (wrongly) suspects of stealing from him, to a snooker table. It appears that, in Boorman's mind at least, Martin Cahill's less savoury tendencies can be forgiven because he stood up to the IRA, and you can only wonder how anybody can arrive at such a simplistic notion.

Cahill is portrayed as a modern-day Robin Hood, but he's a Robin Hood who steals gold from the rich and gives nappies to the poor. When he's not committing crimes he's a lovable rogue with an engaging sense of humour and a love of pigeons. He lives in a nice house and has a loving wife (and sister-in-law) and he's really just like you and me. The police, meanwhile, are either dim-witted fools whom Cahill uses to provide him with alibis as he carries out his audacious crimes or corrupt bullies who take sadistic pleasure in upsetting Cahill at every opportunity.

Brendan Gleeson is OK as Cahill, but he's effortlessly overshadowed by the under-rated Adrian Dunbar as his sidekick Noel Curley. While rarely holding down a starring role, Dunbar never fails to give a convincing performance and he makes the most of a role here that is given scant attention in Boorman's quest to sanctify the memory of Cahill.

Enjoy the film – you'll find it difficult not to – but as you chuckle at Cahill's exploits (some of which are highly unlikely) just remember he's no different in character from the scum who steal your cars and stab your sons.
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The Sopranos with a brogue
yesacs21 May 2002
I didn't know much about Martin Cahill before this film, and I tripped over it on IFC a few nights ago. And I'm glad i did because this is one of the best movies i have seen in quite some time. Shot entirely in black and white and told through a flashback, we are shown Cahill as both the clever criminal gang head, and as the father, brother, and husband of his family. The dialogue is intelligent, fast paced, and ripe with wit and banter between the characters, but one must keep attentive, because you may miss a lot due to the Irish accents. pay particular attention to Cahill and police when they awake him in his tent in the beginning. I think this is a must see for any taste
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Best Euro-crime film since Long Good Friday
corey3rd31 December 1998
This is the best work Boorman has done since Deliverance. Martin Cahill is shown as a man who cared not for the politics of the IRA, but merely wanted to be the greatest thief in Ireland. We see that he is a man who will exact punishment on those who cross him, but asks for forgiveness from those he wrongfully accuses. The pool table scene gives us an insight as to why Martin is not your normal crimelord. I would rate this up with The Long Good Friday as far as films across the pond go. The black and white scope images are stark. Voight is restrained from his normal ham ways in his role as the cop after Cahill. A good overlooked film of 98.
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An interesting, entertaining biopic, but flawed
FredW23 November 1998
For an American unfamiliar with the Martin Cahill story, this movie provided a wonderfully summarized story of his entry into an adult life of crime. Well-acted, well-paced, and humorous, but I went away wanting to learn more about his motivations and his relationships with his family. Filmed in black-and-white, Boorman made me feel the grittiness of urban Ireland. Several threads, however, were left unraveled, including the opinion of the church, the role of women, and Cahill's choice of clothing. Overall, I'd rate this one better than average.
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Humor with an edge!
dveale30 July 1999
This movie surprised me, it was really funny.

You know true stories, sometimes they can be emotional and dramatic! This one is no exception but it is also a gut buster.

Martin, The General, is a smart, clever and basically good person. Yeah, he has some issues with authority but who doesn't. Mostly his issues lie with "the system". In this case the one in Ireland, but it hits home around the world. The powerful getting more power and the poor getting poorer.

Martin has struggled with "the ghetto" since he began. Stealing food and smokes for his mom at an early age, dropping out of school and having an early family to take care of have all seemed to force his hand but instead of being bitter he seems freer than those who have "it all". He speaks his mind to anyone and everyone. He has a lot of love and caring around him and gives it back as well. This is not a man to be envied or pitied rather respected. I feel this is the heart of the matter for Martin.

I laughed, did not cry and felt just a touch sad at the end.

Watch the movie and laugh, laugh, laugh.
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