In the wake created byIn Bruges, I always feared that there would be a spate of copy-catters who would saturate the market with poorer, derivative clones that never matched up. Sadly, it seems that the success of any relatively low-key genre piece acts as a general invite for non-qualified, untalented hacks to believe in their own abilities, no matter how unprecedented any talent may be.
Think, for instance, of the influx of plastic-gangster films that reared their ugly heads after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Thankfully, this time it hasn't really happened - or at least if it has none of the copy-cats have been able to secure enough of a distribution deal for their films to grab any attention.
What has happened, is that Ian Fitzgibbon's Perrier's Bounty now has an inflated audience, which can only be a good thing: the British and Irish talent on show is a cut above, and the script bristles with the kind of zing that turns another low-key black comedy into something that people talk about with passion.
Read on for the full review...
First off, the elephant in the room: Perrier's Bounty is a darkly comic, Irish gangster flick starring Brendan Gleeson that didn't receive any kind of marketing campaign on first release, and seemed to sneak under the collective radars of every ticket buyer I know. Where have we heard that before? It is probably no accident that there has been quite a lot of focus on the similarities between Optimum's new to DVD release and the sublime In Bruges, which should definitely have walked away with some kind of Oscar nod (even if it was just for the excellent script). After all, the two do share a lot in common, beyond even those similarities I have already pointed out: talent-wise there is a triumverate of big names Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, and Jim Broadbent; the genre is obviously the same and the plot rings a through bells as well. See for yourself:
Michael (Murphy) owes money to Dublin's meanest gangster, Darren Perrier (Gleeson). When the debt is called in Brenda (Jodie Whittaker), Michael's recently dumped and suicidal best friend, accidentally shoots dead one of his goons. To make matters worse Michael's estranged father, Jim (Broadbent) arrives just in time to witness the scene. With a bounty on their heads Michael, Jim and Brenda flee to the mountains.
On the run with his eccentric father, who's convinced he'll die the next time he sleeps, and an increasingly morose Brenda, Michael is about to lose his mind. With every hard man in Dublin on their trail it looks like Michael won't make it through the next 24 hours; however, The Grim Reaper and a gang of savage dogs have a funny way of intervening.
The one negative of the similarities is that it points out just how familiar Perrier's Bounty is. There is a definite riff on the same story that underpins much of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels for instance, with the need to come up with money to pay off a debt to a dangerous criminal and the ensuing chaos. But, the film achieves it without Guy Ritchie's pompous stylistics, and relies far more on the strength of performances and script, which make the similar aspects more acceptable.
Going back to the cast, I have infinite respect for the talent Fitzgibbon has put together: I genuinely think Brendan Gleeson is one of the funniest actors currently working, even when he is playing a terrorising gangster, and it is a shame that he hasn't appeared in many Hollywood comic projects. Strangely, looking down his rap-sheet, Gleeson seems to have two personas: the first a British and Irish film stalwart, often in comic roles and usually the emotional epicentre of the film, and then the second is a Hollywood bit-part player, taking interesting side-roles like the Sheriff in Lake Placid, Monk in Gangs of New York and Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter franchise.
His range is incredible, considering what he has been in and his performance as the titular gangster is suitably volatile, but marked by the kind of charm you'd come to expect from Gleeson's on-screen personas.
Alongside him, is the film's real lead, Cillian Murphy looking considerably younger than in Inception, and again showing his range as jittery low-life Michael. He has the considerable responsibility of offering some balance to all other corners: Gleeson's all-too-fleeting appearances (his infrequency is one of the best decisions the film makes), Jodie Whittaker's suicidal, and increasingly unhinged love-lorn best mate, and the film-stealing performance of Jim Broadbent as his morbid father. He does it very well, though it is a little odd to hear him deliver lines in his native accent, considering how familiar we all now are with him playing roles that demand an American accent.
I have a lot of time for Broadbent, though for some reason I am always floored by how good he is in pretty much everything he turns his hand to: I think it is perhaps because he is so unexpected, moving from heart-warming, understated roles like in Mike Leigh's upcoming Another Year and And When Did You Last See Your Father, to pantomime, hyperbolic shows like his roles in Moulin Rouge and Harry Potter.
Whatever the demands of the role, he rises, and his performance here is very good. Seemingly unconcerned that the film is largely happy to emulate In Bruges without hitting its heights or attempting to surpass it, Broadbent makes the film his own, obviously enjoying himself in the silliness of having to stay awake for fear of dying.
The gang of runaways is completed by Jodie Whittaker, seen probably most memorably in Venus, as the love-lorn neighbour who accidentally kills Perrier's henchman and thus triggers the bounty: she isn't able to enjoy the generous lines given to Gleeson or Broadbent, and isn't ever really able to cast off the shackles of being the inevitable love interest for Michael, but she copes manfully under the duress. But then, as OWF's original reviewer John Nugent put it: "Michael and Brendas relationship is not entirely unconvincing, but in such an overwhelmingly male-dominated film, its hard not to get the impression that Brenda was a character thrown in simply to redress the balance a little."
Throw in a lush voice-over appearance by Gabriel Byrne (playing The Reaper- interestingly that means he has now played a priest, the Devil and now the Grim Reaper, choose a side, man) and the cast is near enough complete, aside from some Irish goons who form Perrier's entourage and make a good showing of snarling and gnashing their teeth when required.
Whenever the film looks like it might be outstaying its welcome, or getting a little too focused on its cartoon-violence, the script immediately draws you back in with a little gem that you can just imagine script-writer Mark O'Rowe (Intermission, Boy A) chuckling to himself over. Just like In Bruges, a lot of the comedy relies upon the natural lyrical comedy of Irish banter, which is always aided by the sing-song cadence that delivers it: O'Rowe obviously revels in the craic he writes, and one would imagine absolutely adores the opportunity to introduce a dog called, brilliantly Achilles the Invincible Fuck.
Sadly, the film as a whole lacks the fizz of the few moments that encourage hearty laughs of the viewer: while it is solidly good most of the way through it is often too much to ask of an audience to believe so many close-calls, and the plot does get a little silly at times. But, on the whole, it is well worth revisiting on DVD, especially given the limited release it was granted first time round: while it doesn't match In Bruges for quality all the way through, there is enough in the lead performances, the comic moments and in particular Brendan Gleeson's turn to afford it the accolade of being considered alongside its Irish kin.
Not a great deal really, though the two cast interviews are more than you usually get. Nothing for the deleted/alternative scene fiends out there, and not a Blooper reel to be had at all, which I would have quite liked to see, given the feeling I got from the film that the shoot was a blast. Would have also been nice to have a Commentary from the director and script-writer team too.In full: Trailer Interview with Cillian Murphy & Brendan Gleeson Interview with Jim Broadbent & Jodie Whittaker Perrier's Bounty is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray from Monday 16th August.