Friday, November 6, 2015

John Boorman's The General (1998)

John Boorman’s The General is a neat little throw back to the bio-pics of the 1960’s but with the sensibilities of the 1990’s.

The film is the true story of Martin Cahill. A small time Irish crook who insisted on going his own way. The trouble was that he was too successful at what he did and despite begrudging respect from various factions such as the police, the IRA he became a problem that had to be dealt with.

This was the point at which Brendan Gleeson burst into the consciousness of much of the world. Gleeson plays Cahill in such a charming manner that you kind of forget that he ultimately wasn’t a nice guy. On a certain level the performance is like many other ones that Gleeson has given since then, but at the same time he’s so good at it that he instantly disarms you and you really don’t care since he’s such a nice guy.

You see a theme setting up here.

For me this is one of John Boorman’s better films. As much as I am a fan of his work I find that many of his films work better in fits and starts and that very few of them work from start to finish. This film, Deliverance, Hope and Glory and it's sequel Queen and Country, Emerald Jungle, and maybe one or two others feels like they work all the way through. (Yes that does mean that one of my favorite film Excalibur is imperfect-it’s a tad too episodic). Here we have finely drawn characters that carry the day, and if the film has any flaws you really don't notice them because the characters and the actors bulldoze any doubts.

Despite being one of Boorman's best films this film has kind of gotten lost.I remember when it was originally released and it was just sort of dumped into theaters at awards time. The film then never really found an audience because it was in black and white and because the film aped the 1960's look so well many people thought it was an old film when they saw it on cable.

For me this is a wonderful little treasure that needs to be heralded and placed into people's hands so they too can see this wonderful hidden gem.

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