Dark, depressing film by Thaddeus O’Sullivan set in Belfast 1975, mostly in the Loyalist milieu, during a ceasefire between paramilitaries. Whilst the parallel story of Liam, a Catholic man (John Lynch) trying to get home – and of his children wondering where he is – doesn’t quite work (interesting ideas though there are), the marrow of the film is tragedy, and it focuses on Kenny (James Frain), a tired, driven, flawed man.
Kenny is a Loyalist gunman, a middle manager in the business of bloodletting, by turns expedient and idealistic, hubristic and honourable, optimistic and fatalist. As is often the way in clandestine war, he is saddled with personnel whom one would not necessarily choose, except through necessity; Ian Hart is ferocious as trophy-hunting killer Ginger. But it’s not just a paucity in the moral fibre of others – Kenny is not a good man reluctantly doing bad things in pursuit of a golden dream; he has become a monster, an affable, well-liked, charismatic monster, characterised by monstrous deeds. Ginger is a red herring, less of a monster than Kenny, because he never dresses up what he does in terms of rightness or morality.
Michael Gambon is very good as pragmatic Loyalist godfather Leonard (and Gerard McSorley as his Republican opposite number Cecil). The all-in-one-long-night structure could have been worked tauter, better. The children of Liam (and the various other youngsters connecting the strands together) were relatively good, but tended to drag the tone down to a different place. The voices of women could definitely have been worked into the film better – Maria Doyle Kennedy worked hard with what she had as Ann, but there wasn’t really that much exploration of her role or the roles of women in the story.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Probably my least favourite Hitchcock, and IMO far less enjoyable than the 1934 original. It just seems to lack vim, pace, excitement, tension. Supposedly Hitchcock preferred the remake, though I can’t really see why. It takes an hour before anything really happens! The Albert Hall assassination attempt is wonderfully staged, though. The ending is peculiarly sudden, and without any real sense of resolution. And there’s no villain of the calibre of Peter Lorre.