“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Irish Crime Cinema: Now In Gigglevision

Perrier’s Bounty, a thriller starring Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson, opened in Ireland on Friday. I need hardly add that it’s a comedy crime caper; the humour is black, and the gangland Dublin setting suitably grim, but there’s no mistaking it for a serious crime flick.
 In fact, Ireland doesn’t really do serious crime flicks these days. The notable exception is the biopic Veronica Guerin, but even the two movies based on Martin ‘The General’ Cahill were played in large part for chuckles. I Went Down is a terrific film, but the criminals are for the most part figures of fun. In certain circumstances, such as Divorcing Jack, the comedy is the whole point, because Colin Bateman’s novel was written during a particularly dark period of the Troubles, when being able to laugh, and to do so by poking fun at paramilitaries of all stripes, was no mean feat in itself. But why hasn’t Irish cinema responded to the last decade or so in the way crime fiction has? Not all Irish crime fiction is a considered response to how we live now, but a good (the best) chunk of it is, and there’s no parallel development in Irish film. It can’t be a result of snobbery, because the genre / literary divide doesn’t seem to exist in cinema – The Departed and No Country For Old Men, to give two recent examples, won Best Picture Oscars and did serious box office in the process. So why, when faced with the issue of crime, does Irish cinema dissolve in a fit of giggles?
  Anyway, my review of Perrier’s Bounty runneth thusly:
Perrier’s Bounty (16s)
Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy) is a man with problems. With only a few hours in which to find the money he owes to Dublin gangster Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson), Michael finds his woes multiplied when his next-door neighbour Brenda (Jodie Whittaker) shoots dead one of the thugs sent to put him under pressure. All of which is bad enough, but Mutt the loan shark (Liam Cunningham), who might be able to ease Michael’s financial burden, is a double-crossing rat. Oh, and Michael’s father (Jim Broadbent) shows up to tell Michael he’s dying. Given its gangland milieu, the archly comic tone and a script dense with incident and interwoven plot-strands, it’s almost inevitable that Perrier’s Bounty will be compared with Guy Ritchie’s comedy crime capers. The Dublin gangsters speak in a quasi-philosophical way about the business of criminality, much in the same way as the East End crooks do in Ritchie’s movies, and the writer, Mark O’Rowe, never misses an opportunity to insert a joke or gag, even when the story is crying out for a little gravitas give the characters some emotional ballast. Brenda, for example, never seems at all dismayed by the fact that she’s murdered someone, while Michael’s grim determination to pay back Perrier excludes any possibility of his taking time out to commiserate with his dying father. Modelled, in terms of Irish film, on Intermission and (the superior) I Went Down, the movie hits the ground with the cinematic equivalent of a screech of smoking tires, and goes from nought to sixty in seconds flat. For the first half-hour that’s all hugely entertaining, as the characters bounce off one another in an anarchic game of gangland pinball. Murphy is enjoyable as a cynical bottom-feeder with no illusions about life, while Gleeson is in scenery-chewing form as Perrier, a man with a grandiose perception of who he is and a loquacity to match. The director, Ian Fitzgibbon, showcases a deft hand at sustaining momentum, and it’s all shot with panache by cinematographer Seamus Deasy, who finds intriguingly murky corners of Dublin city to poke his camera into. That said, the fact that the pace never flags grows tiresome after a while, as the story turns into a relentless series of incidents that fails to give the audience the kind of emotional involvement that might allow them to care whether Michael survives through the night. ***

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