Tag Archives: Brendan Gleeson


31 Aug

calvary image


Director: John Michael McDonagh

Writer: John Michael McDonagh

Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 100 minutes


The word calvary can mean agony or anguish as well as torture or affliction. The calvary being endured in John Michael McDonagh’s second film as writer-director is that of Father James Lavelle, a Catholic priest in rural Ireland. It is also that of the Irish people. Their deep anguish at the hands of the Catholic Church as well as other tainted pillars of society from bankers to politicians. Ireland during the last 5 – 10 years has suffered a crisis of faith and this film wades through it warts and all.

The opening of the film is in confessional with Father James listening to a male member of his parish. The voice from behind the curtain tells the priest that he will kill him in 7 days’ time to make amends for the pedophile sins of the Church. It is a shocking first scene. Father James has little to say. The clock on his execution come sacrifice is already ticking.

The film follows father James, played by Brendan Gleeson, through the days leading up to that date with destiny. He ministers to his congregation as best that he can with equal parts charm and bemusement. His community is a mix of oddball characters, played nicely by Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen etc, with plenty of dark secrets shared around. Father James must deal with adulterers, deviants, criminals and addicts. For a small wind-swept town there is plenty of healing to do (although most seek solace a long way from the church). It becomes clear that this priest gets short shrift from an ever faithless flock.

Father James starts to question his own faith as the town openly questions the church and other once lofty Irish institutions. The tone of the film gets darker, the themes heavier and the numerous comic touches of the first 60 minutes fall away. The transition is mostly handled well by the writer-director. Arguably this is a black comedy, but the blackness engulfs the comedy by the end. Unlike its predecessor “The Guard”, another very good film, McDonagh paints a much bigger picture than ‘rural Irish strangeness’. This attempts something grander.

The few flaws that appear are mostly the result of over-ambition. There are one too many characters to follow, their traits are too extreme at times and the storyline about the disgraced banker (Moran) pales against that of the crumbling church. However, Gleeson holds it all together with a perfect performance. He relishes the material and gives it his all. His Father James goes on a hell of a journey and his anguish is very real. That calvary is seemingly reflected in the dark, damaged and detached minds of many of his fellow countrymen.

The Raven

28 Dec

the raven



Director: James McTeigue

Writers: Ben Livingston (screenplay), Hannah Shakespeare (screenplay)

Stars: John Cusack, Alice Eve and Luke Evans

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 110 minutes


The Raven is a well-known and well-liked poem by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1845. It made Poe famous. He was an author, editor and literary critic as well as a poet, but that dark and haunting poem is arguably his stand out work and fairly in keeping with a catalogue heavy on mystery and macabre. Poe died in 1849 in Baltimore aged 40. The cause of his death remains unknown and that puzzle forms a key plot point in this gothic thriller from James (V for Vendetta) McTeigue.

John Cusack plays Poe as an angry, antisocial and frustrated writer that drinks too much and that has a knack for putting peoples backs up. Early on he describes himself as “broke and out of control” and we see him thrown out of taverns and upsetting the well-to-do father (Brendan Gleeson) of the girl that he is secretly seeing (Alice Eve). Cusack is good in this role. His round shoulders, black eyes and unkempt hair fit the character nicely and his cocky Poe, not unlike Robert Downey Jr’s recent Sherlock Holmes, irritates and intrigues, but ultimately wins you over.

This is a gothic thriller, but it is also a serial killer movie. Poe’s dark stories of science fiction, horror and mystery are being made real by a maniac prowling the gas lit streets of Baltimore. The killer is the craziest sort of fan and police detective Fields (Luke Evans) has little choice but to add Poe to his task force. Thereafter a game of cat and mouse ensues with the killer seemingly taunting Fields and Poe whilst taking Poe’s girl as a hostage along the way.

There is a fair amount going on in this film, but for the most part it succeeds. There are certainly elements of both Seven and the Saw franchise on show and the overall vibe is similar to a number of films about Jack the Ripper (murky cobbled streets, blacked out carriages, rough pubs on the waterfront etc.) That said, the production design and photography are eye-catching. Cusack holds the film together well and Gleeson, Eve and Evans are all fine. It’s not dazzling, but it is has some thrills, it moves along quickly enough and the whodunit angle is handled well. Not bad at all.

%d bloggers like this: