Ah, those wacky Irish - always with the darkness and the violence and the well-spoken bad behavior. How can you not love their amusing gangsters?
No, seriously - I can't get enough of the kind of black-humor-laced films and plays that come out of Ireland. I'm a big Martin McDonagh fan (In Bruges rules -- and don't miss A Behanding in Spokane before it closes on Broadway) - and my new favorite is director Ian Fitzgibbon, whose Perrier's Bounty" opens in limited release Friday (5.21.10).
Fitzgibbon was represented earlier this year by an exceptionally limited release of his hilariously grisly movie, A Film With Me In It. Perrier's Bounty is a distinctly more ambitious outing, one with a more obviously star-studded cast - but with the same gruesomely funny sense of humor and surprising sense of action (in a script by Mark O'Rowe, who wrote the underseen Boy A).
At the center of Perrier's Bounty is a nervy waster named Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy), who is awakened in the opening scene by a pair of thugs in the employ of crime boss and loan shark Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson). McCrea, it seems, is down to his last four hours before his deadline to repay money he owes Perrier -- a large packet of Euros he doesn't have a prayer of accumulating. If he can't produce, then the thugs have Perrier's orders to break two bones of McCrea's choice (and fingers and toes don't count).
McCrea's desperate search for money brings him into contact with a variety of underworld friends and enemies, as well as his good-looking neighbor Brenda (Jodie Whittaker), who is forever after Michael to help her with her unfaithful boyfriend. Even as he makes his fruitless attempts to borrow cash, McCrea has a single ace in the hole: the gun he has hidden under his bed. Or so he thinks.
He may actually have found the solution: a breaking-and-entering job with a small-time hood called the Mutt (Liam Cunningham), who needs an extra hand. But the job provides an unexpected twist -- one that will pay even more money, but not immediately. That presents a problem, considering how strict Perrier is with deadlines.
Along the way, McCrea runs into his father Jim (Jim Broadbent), who he hasn't spoken to in ages - and who claims to be dying (less of a fact than a hunch, as it turns out). Eventually, McCrea, Jim and Brenda find themselves in possession of a dead body and on the run not only from Perrier's men but from every lowlife in town -- because, once McCrea misses the deadline, Perrier puts a hefty bounty on his head.
Perrier's Bounty may remind some of the high-flying, comically jolting gangster films of Guy Ritchie -- though Fitzgibbon doesn't go in for the kind of flashy visuals that Ritchie enjoys. Still, he understands the comic possibilities of tough guys with surprising sensitivity and unexpected erudition.
The film offers an alternately quick-witted and clueless protagonist, to which Murphy brings both dimness and likeability. He's not an idiot -- just a guy who makes bad choices. But Murphy makes us believe that, when the chips are down, McCrea can be a resourceful and loyal guy.
Broadbent steals the film, however, as McCrea's always surprising father. Seemingly a boozy sad sack, he reveals unexpected depth and comic grit at key moments. Whittaker rounds out the trio with a loudmouth charm that plays well with Murphy's more slippery McCrea. And Gleeson is a pure delight, as the pragmatic, bullying Perrier; his slow burn is a thing of beauty.
Perrier's Bounty is delicious and propulsive, a film that rarely pauses to let the viewer catch his breath or think too much about what's going on. It's an expert blend of thrills, laughs and jeopardy - like a strong Irish coffee with a jolt of pepper.