Brendan Gleeson

Gangs of New York (2002, Martin Scorsese)

Gangs of New York is a really big, really bad epic. Director Scorsese pays so much attention to the scale of the film, with sweeping crane shots and intense (and terrible) action sequences, he doesn’t pay much attention to the other elements of the film. Like the acting. And the script.

First, the acting. It’s not terrible. Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s always clean-shaven and always has perfect hair because he’s a matinée idol, not an actor here, isn’t atrocious. He can’t keep an accent but, when he’s delivering the lame dialogue or pretending a romance with Cameron Diaz… well, it’s clear it isn’t his fault.

And Cameron Diaz isn’t terrible. She’s got an idiotic character and nothing to do in the film. She does nothing just fine.

Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic. Until about sixty percent through the picture, he makes it worth seeing. Then he and DiCaprio have their falling out and the script goes even more to pot. It goes entirely into summary and narrative montage, even though Scorsese has stopped with the montages.

The film’s a mess, not just narratively, but visually. Thelma Schoonmaker–one of the great film editors of the last fifty years–is constantly doing these ugly, jagged cuts and even worse fades. Scorsese can’t do this film. From the first few minutes, it’s clear he can’t do a film this size. He doesn’t want to have to acknowledge the artifice and it kills the film.

Day-Lewis’s spellbindingly good. But Gangs is atrocious.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Scorsese; screenplay by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan, based on a story by Cocks; director of photography, Michael Ballhaus; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Dante Ferretti; produced by Alberto Grimaldi and Harvey Weinstein; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (Amsterdam Vallon), Daniel Day-Lewis (William Cutting), Cameron Diaz (Jenny Everdeane), Jim Broadbent (William Tweed), John C. Reilly (Jack Mulraney), Henry Thomas (Johnny Sirocco) and Brendan Gleeson (Walter McGinn).


Breakfast on Pluto (2005, Neil Jordan)

Breakfast on Pluto starts with talking robins. They’re subtitled, but talking. Robins can talk–or these two robins can talk (they show up from time to time), in which case they just live a long time. Before the talking robins, who director Jordan uses to keep the viewer off balance, the film opens with Cillian Murphy’s protagonist. During the rougher portions of the film, it’s hard not to think they opened with Murphy–playing a transgender woman in sixties and seventies UK–to give some hope the character isn’t going to have a bad end.

For a while, the film seems to be a distant character study, set against the Irish troubles. While Murphy’s life is separate from the troubles, she keeps getting drug into them. Only when the two collide does the film begins to define itself. Before that moment, Pluto is a connected set of vignettes, as Murphy tries to navigate the world, having a series of adventures (some amusing, some devastating) with various people.

The collision reveals–rather grandiosely–subtle insight into the protagonist. The film never shies away from insight as Murphy moves to London to search for her mother; the later revelation is about the film itself. Pluto is incredibly complex. And without talking robins, one might not digest it properly.

Great supporting turns from Ruth Negga, Liam Neeson, Ian Hart and Steven Waddington. Gavin Friday, Brendan Gleeson and Stephen Rea each have extended, fantastic cameos.

Murphy’s spellbinding.

Jordan crafts a spectacular film with Pluto.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Neil Jordan; screenplay by Jordan and Pat McCabe, based on the novel by McCabe; director of photography, Declan Quinn; edited by Tony Lawson; music by Anna Jordan; production designer, Tom Conroy; produced by Alan Moloney, Jordan and Stephen Woolley; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Cillian Murphy (Patrick ‘Kitten’ Braden), Stephen Rea (Bertie), Brendan Gleeson (John Joe Kenny), Ruth Negga (Charlie), Laurence Kinlan (Irwin), Ruth McCabe (Ma Braden), Gavin Friday (Billy Hatchett), Steven Waddington (Inspector Routledge), Ian Hart (PC Wallis), Liam Cunningham (1st Biker), Bryan Ferry (Mr. Silky String), Eva Birthistle (Eily Bergin) and Liam Neeson (Father Liam).


Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Doug Liman)

Edge of Tomorrow is high concept masquerading as medium concept… masquerading as mainstream high concept. The gimmick–Tom Cruise finds himself reliving every day as he goes into a battle against alien invaders–turns out not just to have a lot to do with the alien invaders, who director Liman almost entirely avoids, but also with how characters develop. Cruise spends a good deal of the movie building a relationship with fellow soldier Emily Blunt, but she doesn't build one with him.

The screenwriters–Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth–are fully aware of these narrative choices (at one point, during a sojourn from battle, some of them discreetly come up in dialogue). It adds to the oddness of the film, which Liman positions as a war film first, action movie second, sci-fi third. The opening invasion scenes, a futuristic envisioning of D-Day, are startling. Liman bombards the viewer with repeated violence–often the same violence literally repeated–while making each iteration more draining. There are a couple tricks in how the film follows Cruise's character through his experiences, but the draining effects of the battle sequence are always handled sincerely.

Cruise's character arc is most intensely transformative through the first half of the film, before the unexpected consequences of his condition become clear and the arc veers a little. He's perfect for the role and willingly gives up spotlight to Blunt, who's utterly phenomenal.

Good support from Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson, excellent photography from Dion Beebe.

Tomorrow is assured, confident and quite successful.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Doug Liman; screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, based on a novel by Sakurazaka Hiroshi; director of photography, Dion Beebe; edited by James Herbert; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by Erwin Stoff, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Gregory Jacobs and Jason Hoffs; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Tom Cruise (Cage), Emily Blunt (Vrataski), Brendan Gleeson (General Brigham), Bill Paxton (Master Sergeant Farell), Jonas Armstrong (Skinner), Tony Way (Kimmel), Kick Gurry (Griff), Franz Drameh (Ford), Dragomir Mrsic (Kuntz), Charlotte Riley (Nance) and Noah Taylor (Dr. Carter).


The Tailor of Panama (2001, John Boorman)

While The Tailor of Panama is on firm ground in and of itself, it’s difficult not to think about in the context of James Bond. Pierce Brosnan plays a brutal, womanizing British secret agent and sort of gives cinema it’s only realistic Bond movie.

Of course, mentioning James Bond is something to get out of the way with Panama, because it’s not a commentary on the film series. Brosnan does a great job with thoroughly unlikable character. He never humanizes the character, making all his shocking behavior continuously reprehensible. Boorman and Brosnan create incredible discomfiture.

Brosnan shares the lead with Geoffrey Rush, who’s the opposite. He’s lovable, partially because he’s not very bright. Rush is great too. There aren’t any bad performances in Panama. Most of them are exceptional–Brendan Gleeson, David Hayman, Leonor Varela. Martin Ferrero is wondrously odious in a small part and Harold Pinter’s hilarious in his cameo role. Oh, and so’s Dylan Baker. Boorman casted the film well.

As the love interests, Jamie Lee Curtis and Catherine McCormack are probably the least impressive. Both are quite good, but there isn’t enough space for them to get the screen time they need.

Panama is packed. It maintains a good pace throughout; the third act full of subtle, difficult content. The script’s outstanding.

Philippe Rousselot’s rich photography is an asset to the film. Ron Davis’s editing is sublime.

Great costumes, which a film with Tailor in the title probably needs, from Maeve Paterson.

Panama‘s rich, but easily digestible.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by John Boorman; screenplay by Andrew Davies, John le Carré and Boorman, based on the novel by le Carré; director of photography, Philippe Rousselot; edited by Ron Davis; music by Shaun Davey; production designer, Derek Wallace; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Andy Osnard), Geoffrey Rush (Harry), Jamie Lee Curtis (Louisa), Brendan Gleeson (Mickie Abraxas), Catherine McCormack (Francesca Deane), Leonor Varela (Marta), Martin Ferrero (Teddy), David Hayman (Luxmore), Jon Polito (Ramón Rudd), Mark Margolis (Rafi Domingo), Dylan Baker (General Dusenbaker), Ken Jenkins (Morecombe), Jonathan Hyde (Cavendish), Paul Birchard (Joe), Harry Ditson (Elliot), John Fortune (Maltby), Martin Savage (Stormont) and Harold Pinter (Uncle Benny).


Green Zone (2010, Paul Greengrass)

Most of Green Zone is the best film I’ve seen about the Iraq war, simply because Greengrass is often satisfied with letting the film just be concrete situations (he opens with Matt Damon and his crew having to deal with a sniper and it establishes a great tone). However, Green Zone isn’t just a war movie… it’s an action conspiracy thriller and one set in reality, so eventually the film has to turn Damon into a superhero.

The film bombed, which isn’t much a surprise given how Americans are happiest when avoiding critical thinking and intellectualism. And calling Green Zone intellectual is a stretch—it’s a slick Hollywood picture. It’s like Syriana distilled into simple syrup and added into an Orange Julius smoothie. But screenwriter Brian Helgeland does slick better than almost anyone and he turns in a fantastic script, just one with some problems….

Like how the film isn’t willing to condemn anyone except a singular corrupt Bush administration official… and U.S. soldiers who torture civilians are eventually given a pass too. For all the hubbub, it’s very diplomatic to xenophobes. It does team Bourne collaborators Damon and Greengrass again. It’s not like those movies were made for intellectuals.

The acting’s universally solid. Damon’s excellent (though even he can’t sell the end), as is Brendan Gleeson (playing George Clooney from Syriana). Jason Isaacs is great as one of the villains. Khalid Abdalla is good as Damon’s Iraqi sidekick.

It’s predictable, but extraordinary well-done thanks to Greengrass and Helgeland.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Paul Greengrass; screenplay by Brian Helgeland, inspired by a book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran; director of photography, Barry Ackroyd; edited by Christopher Rouse; music by John Powell; production designer, Dominic Watkins; produced by Greengrass, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Lloyd Levin; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Matt Damon (Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller), Greg Kinnear (Clark Poundstone), Brendan Gleeson (Martin Brown), Amy Ryan (Lawrie Dayne), Khalid Abdalla (Freddy), Yigal Naor (Al Rawi) and Jason Isaacs (Lieutenant Briggs).


Turbulence (1997, Robert Butler)

Turbulence raises a good point—why bother trying to make a good serial killer thriller? Ray Liotta runs rampant throughout the film, having serving after serving of scenery. The script’s got a bunch of dialogue issues in the third act, but none of them bother Liotta, who’s operating at way too high an adrenaline level to be bothered.

The script’s sort of dumb, sure, but it’s serviceable. The film’s mostly well-cast. Lauren Holly’s not great, but she’s likable enough the audience doesn’t want to see her get hurt by a serial killer. Rachel Ticotin, Jeffrey DeMunn and Michael Harney are all good in little parts. Catherine Hicks has a slightly bigger role and she’s excellent.

There are the problems with the cast too and with a stronger cast, Turbulence might have better maintained its disaster movie meets serial killer thriller vibe (the film’s got a lot of comparisons to Executive Decision actually). Hector Elizondo is relatively weak as the cop after Liotta. John Finn’s bad as a sexist FBI agent. And then someone thought casting Brendan Gleeson as a redneck was a good idea… Gleeson’s awful. His accent turns his scenes into something akin to The Naked Gun.

Besides the general solidness of the cast and setting (an empty, out of control airline, already uncanny, in the dark, with Christmas lights everywhere), Butler makes Turbulence work. He’s a long-time TV director and he brings a high level of competence to the film.

Even the CG is reasonably acceptable.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Butler; written by Jonathan Brett; director of photography, Lloyd Ahern II; edited by John Duffy; music by Shirley Walker; production designer, Mayling Cheng; produced by Martin Ransohoff and David Valdes; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Ray Liotta (Ryan Weaver), Lauren Holly (Teri Halloran), Brendan Gleeson (Stubbs), Hector Elizondo (Lt. Aldo Hines), Rachel Ticotin (Rachel Taper), Jeffrey DeMunn (Brooks), John Finn (FBI Agent Frank Sinclair), Ben Cross (Captain Samuel Bowen), Catherine Hicks (Maggie), Heidi Kling (Betty), Gordy Owens (Carl), J. Kenneth Campbell (Captain Matt Powell), James MacDonald (1st Officer Ted Kary), Michael Harney (Marshal Marty Douglas) and Grand L. Bush (Marshal Al Arquette).


28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle)

Why is Hollywood making Cillian Murphy the bad guy? He’s got to be the best everyman Hollywood’s seen since–who, Roy Scheider or something, except a better actor? No offense to Roy, I love Roy, but Roy’s a little bit of a movie star. Cillian Murphy’s not a movie star….

It’s impossible to really talk about 28 Days Later without talking about the ending. I could give a shit about the three alternate endings, by the way. I figure, a DVD release, Boyle could have thrown one in and labeled it director’s preferred and been done with it. So we’re talking about the one that’s on the DVD. It’s the only ending the film could have had for me to give it the four too. That last shot, that last breath. It’s a beautiful moment in an unexpected place.

A friend compared 28 Days to Winterbottom’s Wonderland while talking about digital video. 28 Days doesn’t even look like video. It looks like film with really neat rain effects (which are probably only possible with video). Incidentally, Wonderland doesn’t look like video, it looks like a hi-res 16 millimeter.

I can’t explain how happy I am following this film, how elated. It’s under two hours, takes place over a handful of days, and it manages to have six distinct parts to it. Six distinct “stories.” Well, no, five distinct stories. The last two are rather linked… though wouldn’t necessarily need to be.

Unfortunately, the same thing that happened after the last time I watched Trainspotting is happening again. I’m falling in love with Danny Boyle’s filmmaking. It won’t last, of course, all I need for a cure is Shallow Grave or, ugh, A Life Less Ordinary, but I still haven’t seen The Beach, though I have been warned… Maybe Millions. Boyle’s not a young Turk, either. I think he was at least in his forties when he made Trainspotting, so he’s probably in his fifties now. (Miramax always seemed to present Trainspotting as a young Turk film). Trainspotting is better, I suppose, though Boyle’s a better filmmaker now than he was then. He’s less reliant on dialogue to move things, much more comfortable with the effect of his visuals.

Making a shot empty of people matter is difficult. It puts a lot of weight on the fellow going through the whole experience. Vanilla Sky doesn’t really count as an example and The Pianist failed miserably (I was terrified when I started 28 Days Later, fearful it would be a zombie movie like The Pianist, the lead going around, running, exploring ruins, all without any real emotional impact, hiding behind a calamity). So, now’s when I could rain praise on Murphy, who’ll maybe someday find a good role in Hollywood, but until then I need to track down that friggin’ one of his Nicheflix carries. I don’t know the female lead’s name, but she’s really good. So’s the girl. So’s Christopher Eccleston, which surprised me, especially since he was so bad in Shallow Grave.

28 Days Later, while definitely delivering a good “horror” film, a good “zombie” film, one ups even Romero’s best. While his Dawn of the Dead was about people and their struggles in a situation created by zombies, Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland (do I have to see Halo now?) tell a story about some guy. (Romero tends to let his commentary overwhelm the story, no matter how effective the story–or commentary–might be, Martin for example). So now The Stop Button is all about 28 Days Later and Danny Boyle and Cillian Murphy and shit….

At least until I see The Beach.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Danny Boyle; written by Alex Garland; director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantle; edited by Chris Gill; music by John Murphy; production designer, Mark Tildesley; produced by Andrew MacDonald; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Cillian Murphy (Jim), Naomie Harris (Selena), Christopher Eccleston (Maj. Henry West), Megan Burns (Hannah) and Brendan Gleeson (Frank).


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