Perrier’s Bounty

Is he doomed to remain the dude he always was?

We’ve reached an era of uniform head-nodding when it comes to European “gangster underworld” films, in large part due to Guy Ritchie’s success in the genre (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RocknRolla, etc).  His success has also spoiled this genre a little bit – “This is like one of those Guy Ritchie films.”  You will only hear that phrase uttered by Americans, for in reality, these types of films have been going on forever, albeit not receiving theatrical release in the oh-so-spoiled States, where we only skim the very top of the foreign film bucket.

Perrier’s Bounty is a Dublin (that’s in Ireland!) underworld film written by Mark O’Rowe, who mostly works in stageplay, but who is also responsible for the excellent Irish film Intermission from 2003.  PB stars Cillian Murphy as Michael, a young, near-destitute loner in modern-day Dublin, who owes a good deal of money to infamous gangster Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson).  His downstairs neighbor and secret crush Brenda (Jodie Whittaker) becomes involved when she guns down one of Perrier’s gangsters in a confused combination of concern for Michael and manic distress at being dumped by her loser boyfriend.  The duo make a run for it, along with Michael’s father Jim (Jim Broadbent) who appears out of nowhere, claiming that he received a visit from the Reaper, who told Jim he would die the next time he fell asleep.  The film also features appearances from Liam Cunningham as “The Mutt,” a man said to help those in debt; and Gabriel Byrne as the mysterious, deep-voiced narrator, whose identity you can probably guess just from what I’ve written so far.  If not, you’ll find out in the final ten seconds of the film, so don’t fret.

PB is a mixture of crime thriller, dark-ish comedy, and formula romance.  Where it stands out from other “like Guy Ritchie but…” films is its heart.  Is it fully expected that Michael and Brenda will be a couple in the end?  Of course.  But is it still immensely satisfying if they do?  Absolutely.  Murphy, Gleeson and Broadbent get to use their real accents, which makes you appreciate the work that goes into their phony American and British ones even more.  Whittaker, known for her appearances in St. Trinian’s and Venus, is the only woman among the principal cast, and serves mainly as the romantic interest for Michael and the fuel for some of his decisions (a problem for women in a great many films lately; see Christopher Nolan’s lady issues), but even so, she plays the role with convincing passion.  Broadbent, as usual, is lovable and hilarious, and the inclusion of Byrne, whose voice looms over the film like a cloud of vultures, is spirited.

The twists, while involving, are relatively easy to see coming, but the characters move through them convincingly enough.  There’s a near-progressive moment when one of Perrier’s lead henchmen reveals his homosexuality, but this detail is used mostly for humor (Gleeson: “Love is love, no matter how queer”).

All in all, the mixed drink of comedy, thriller, “like Guy Ritchie but…” and cute romance (in Ireland!) is a delicious one.  The father-son conflict is well-performed (and occasionally quite touching), and the quirky characters all have their place.  Just note that if you needed the Pikey subtitles for Brad Pitt in Snatch, you’ll be reading a hell of a lot during Perrier’s Bounty.

Perrier’s Bounty (2009); written by Mark O’Rowe; directed by Ian Fitzgibbon; starring Cillian Murphy, Jodie Whittaker, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleeson.

Inception

There’s still no spoon

I’m starting to realize something: when someone says a film was “hard to follow,” chances are that person does not read.  In our current world, rarely does a film come along in which you actually have to remember anything that happened in the previous scene.  There’s a lot of loud noise, flashing lights, quick cuts, unconvincing CG, violent pulses that pass for music, and distracting 3D nonsense.  This brings me to Inception, Christopher Nolan’s newest effort.  I’ve read/heard from a variety of sources that the film was “confusing” or “hard to follow.”  I’ve also heard the word “deep” used to describe it, though “deep” has such variation in meaning that it’s hard for me to tell whether someone thinks Inception was thoughtfully written or whether they’re going to base an entire religion on it.

Have these people ever read a novel?  I’m guessing not.  Inception is nearly three hours, and everything in the story is relatively spelled out for the audience.  Of the five or six main characters, only Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his past are truly highlighted, while everyone else has a specific role to play in relation to the plot action and Cobb himself (not so much their own lives and demons and what have you), therefore almost zero sideplots exist.  On one hand, you’ve got the mission: plant an idea in the head of a businessman (Cillian Murphy) by entering his dreams; on the other hand you have Cobb’s obsession with his dead wife Mallorie (Marion Cotillard) and how his memory of her affects the dreams he enters.  If that’s hard to follow, I can help you no further.  In fact, Nolan holds our hand through the entire film by having characters take turns saying things like “Wait, so whose subconscious are we in now?”

The film features a diverse ensemble cast including leading lady Ellen Page (who is really starting to make a name for herself now, and one can see why) as Ariadne, an architectural prodigy who is placed in charge of manipulating the scenery in the dream world; Tom Hardy as Eames, a “Forger,” a witty thief who impersonates others in dreams; a deep-voiced Joseph Gordon-Levitt (in one of his most mature roles to date) as Arthur, the team’s point man and DiCaprio’s fall guy; Dileep Rao as Yusuf, a creator of heavy sedatives and the team’s getaway driver; Ken Watanabe as Saito, a Japanese businessman with an intriguing proposition for Cobb; and even Tom Berenger in a nice supporting role as Browning, Cillian Murphy’s sidekick.  The immortal Michael Caine appears in a cameo role as Cobb’s mentor and Ariadne’s college professor.  Every performance is impeccably handled and every character is necessary to complete the plot puzzle.

One of the most impressive features of this film is one that might be easily overlooked once the story and the hype take your senses over: Inception is not an adaptation.  Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this monster from his own mind – as with every film ever, it takes influences and inspiration from elsewhere (i.e. every heist film from The Killing to The Hot Rock), but it’s not directly based upon anything.  It’s something new.

Nolan still has problems writing female characters, in that they continue to be little more than mismatched support beams for the macho male hero.  This film has a million men and two women.  Mallorie is an exotic beauty with a French accent – clearly an intentional retention, as Cillian Murphy stifles his heavy Irish accent throughout the film.  Where Mal came from (France, I assume) and how she became Cobb’s wife is never touched upon.  She ceases to be a person and becomes little more than a dark temptation for Cobb (and Nolan’s decision to make her dead only adds to the convenience of the situation).  Ariadne is said to be a genius, but she never gets to exercise that.  She acts disloyal and disobedient, to which we are supposed to respond with “Ugh; why’d she have to do that?” but she always has Cobb’s best interests in mind.  There is no mention of her personal life or desires.  See further examples of this problem in Nolan’s The Prestige and The Dark Knight.

Inception is a heist film disguised as a psychological thriller.  The ingredients are all there.  One might immediately draw comparisons to The Matrix, but this film is smarter and without all the popcorn sci-fi nonsense (and hopefully without broken, sloppily-done sequels).  This is not a film where you look up a plot summary beforehand and then go see it if you think it looks good (which is why I’m not providing one here).  It’s a film to go out and experience.  Possibly more than once.  Just don’t tell me it’s hard to follow.

Inception (2010); written and directed by Christopher Nolan; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

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