Tag Archives: Colin Farrell

The Banshees of Inisherin

29 Oct

Going to extremes to remove the banal, one Irish finger at a time

By Tom Meek Friday, October 28, 2022

What would happen if the principals in Samuel Beckett’s existential “Waiting for Godot” took their uneasy alliance to a grim frenemy high? That’s about what “The Banshees of Inisherin” amounts to, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, who cut his teeth as a playwright (“The Pillowman,” “The Cripple of Inishmaan”), and whose features “In Bruges” (2008), “Seven Psychopaths” (2012) and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) have a very much play-to-the-screen feel to them. “Inisherin” included, they’re dialogue and character driven. If you’ve seen a McDonagh effort and walked away wondering what characters’ motivations were, you were clearly napping.

“Inisherin” returns Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell from “In Bruges.” In that film they played two assassins wrestling with life choices; here they play Colm and Pádraic, respectively, gents on a small Irish island where there’s nary a tree but plenty of cliffs and stone-enclosed fields. It’s also 100 years ago, with the Irish Civil War near its apex; we see explosions on the mainland a mile or so away and hear occasional gunfire, but life is fairly isolated from the bigger goings-on. Colm and Pádraic meet each day at 2 p.m. for a pint at the local (and only) pub until one day Colm tells Pádraic he no longer wants to be friends, calling him a dull man who jabbers away about his donkey’s poop or dairy cows’ moods. Siobhan (Kerry Condon, so good in “Better Call Saul” and owning her scenes here), Pádraic’s sister, confirms as much, but is sympathetic to her siblings dismay. Each day the crestfallen Pádraic approaches Colm in the pub, until one day Colm says that if Pádraic doesn’t back off, he’ll cut off one finger from his hand for every infraction. It’s a threat taken seriously by all, as Colm is the pub’s fiddle master, and part of his reason for parting with Pádraic is to spend the remainder of his life doing something more significant – composing the ballad of the film’s title.

Things escalate in small strokes that, as you can expect, are bloody and overreactive, though not to the degree of “In Bruges.” At the heart of the film is the search or want for meaning and art and how one’s legacy is remembered, or not. The film’s gorgeously shot by Ben Davis, who’s worked with McDonagh before (“Psychopaths” and “Billboards”) and done a handful of Marvel entries (“Eternals,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain Marvel” among ’em), now with almost a doleful lens emblematic of life on the emotionally barren isle. Some comic relief comes in the Sunday arrivals via boat of a priest (David Pearse) who looks hauntingly like Peter Lorre in “M” (1931) in the confessional booth and drops F-bombs when incensed. Adding to the unhappy olio is Barry Keoghan (“The Green Knight,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) as a strange, simple young man interested in Siobhan and Gray Lydon as his abusive father and town constable, who wields his power inappropriately and has it in for Pádraic for sheltering his son.

There’s a grim, gray pale that hangs over “The Banshees of Inisherin,” one that doesn’t have to be there. The characters make fateful choices for seemingly trite reasons. The main reason to see “Inisherin,” besides Davis’ brilliant work, is Gleeson and Farrell. The latter imbues his character with a gruff, steely resolve that clearly says “don’t tinker with”; the former has to evoke baffled curiousness, a shaggy-dog need for affection even after being kicked, and emotional longing. These are great performance that rise above the film’s material and lift the film to the heights of Davis’ lofty lens looking down on an island of lonely people.

The Gentlemen

26 Jan

‘The Gentlemen’: Guy Ritchie gangster crew hashes out their differences to deadly ends

The Gentlemen' Is an Early Contender For Most Stylish Film of the Year

Video PlayerIt feels somewhat weird that this boldly minted Miramax offering from Guy Ritchie hits theaters just as the Harvey Weinstein trial kicks off in New York. Miramax, for those with short-term memories, was the studio Harvey and his brother founded back in 1979. The name remains synonymous with the notorious abuser, which is why in Ritchie’s return to the British gangster romp it’s so strange to see the moniker not only up there in lights, but as part of the plot. Perhaps the studio thought of it as something of a whitewash, but the timing makes the connection just too hard to shake.

That bit of ignominious history aside, “The Gentlemen” is quite entertaining, sharper and more focused than Ritchie’s “RocknRolla” (2008) though not in the same class as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998) or “Snatch” (2000). (Also hard to believe Ritchie just helmed the recent “Aladdin” adaptation). The ensemble here is a stroke of genius, with Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Pearson, an American transplant who runs a half-billion-dollar cannabis operation, Hugh Grant owning the picture as a conniving P.I. and aspiring screenwriter named Fletcher and hunky hot ticket Henry Golding as Dry Eye, a foot soldier with big ambitions. Then there’s Colin Farrell as “Coach,” a saucy sort who runs an inner-city gym, and Charlie Hunnam as Ray, Mickey’s fixer. The uber-twisted plot essentially rides on the rails of Mickey in the process of selling his business (because of his criminal past, when weed goes legal he likely won’t get a seat at the table) to a fellow American (Jeremy Strong). From there, the chess match of double dealings and plots within plots spews forth, the whole endeavor framed brilliantly by some deliciously dicey dialogue between Fletcher and Ray over a few bottles of scotch and Wagyu steak – what’s that in your freezer, the son of a Russian oligarch? Continue reading


17 Nov

‘Widows’: Their husbands left with a job to do, and if goes even a little wrong, it’s their funeral

film still of three characters in a sauna exchanging money

The latest from “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen could have easily been called “Bastards” and worked as well. As is, “Widows” is a sweeping heist movie that plays out in alluring shards spliced together kinetically by editor Joe Walker, who’s teamed with McQueen on several projects. Early on we get loving embraces between a soft teddy bear of a man named Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) and his betrothed Veronica (Viola Davis). Could a couple be any more perfect? We cut to Harry pulling off a guns-blazing armored car job. The authorities are hot on his tail, but he’s got his crackpot team he tells to “stick to the plan” as bullets rain down. But things don’t go as planned, and soon we’re left with the trio of the title.

Joining Veronica are Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), all three pretty much left high and dry by their exes, and it does’t provide any solace that local gangster Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), whom Harry ripped off, comes knocking and wants his dough back. There’s nothing left to square up with, and Jamal’s sociopathic brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) lurks at every turn, so what’s a trio of ladies in mourning to do? Simple: Execute the next job detailed in Harry’s secret notebook, pay off Jamal and start anew.

Easier said than done, especially when you learn your driver can’t drive. A quick call to “Baby Driver” might have fixed that, but remember, folks, this is an all-woman affair. Add to the mix the shifting sands of Chicago politics as Jamal runs for alderman against an old-school pol by the name of Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) whose pa (Robert Duvall) held the post in the past and fancies himself something of a power broker.

If the plot and cast couldn’t get anymore crowded, why not throw in Jacki Weaver (think of her performance in “Animal Kingdom”) as Alice’s mother. She likes the good life so much, she’s willing to sign her daughter up as a high-end escort, and isn’t it a blessing that Lukas Haas (the wide-eyed kid from “Witness”) pops up as her john named David? There’s a lot of moving parts and plenty of action. Bored you will not be.

Behind the lens, McQueen, like David Fincher helming “Gone Girl,” orchestrates the noisy fray and rippling plot within a plot with artful care. It helps that he’s blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the casting. Kaluuya, so good in “Get Out,” gets squandered here, but Henry and Cynthia Erivo, seen recently in “Bad Times at the El Royale” and a scene-grabber here as a late add to the crew, score quiet knockouts. Debicki, a tall, angular blonde with a blend of gangly, goofy sensuality that calls to mind a young Laura Dern, registers the fullest character onscreen. We get knowing resignation offset by a warm smile as she accepts the next shitty hand she’s dealt. Alice can’t catch a break, and that’s how the film wants it. These women are more than survivors when their backs are against the wall, that much is clear early on, though the action often feels heavy handed. The shifting lines of race and gentrification and behind-the-scenes political jockeying and backroom deals feel like something right out of a Richard Price novel and make for the most alluring subplot of the film – made even more so by the vitriolic relationship between Farrell’s son and Duvall’s megalomaniacal father – though never fully developed. It could have been its own movie. As is, the film hangs squarely on Davis holding it all together with pursed lips, unbending posture and a laser stare. 

The story by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, whose other projects “Gone Girl” and “Sharp Objects,” were similarly steeped in webs of crime, circumstance, depraved pasts and hidden agendas, is based loosely on a British TV crime drama, and Flynn knows how to get you on the hook. She’s just yet to master the reel-in, and the wrap-up comes as something of a shrug. It’s not quite as significant or moving as you might hope, but getting there’s an electric, Windy City Slip ’N Slide full of unsavory characters in the shadows and the front office – almost all of them men.

Killing of a Scared Deer

29 Oct
Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan in "The Killing of a Sacred Deer." (Courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/A24)closemore

Director Yorgos Lanthimos, who rendered a dry, dystopian vision of the near-future with “The Lobster” in 2015, brews up a waking suburban nightmare that’s equally perverse and haunting. There’s rising tension, but the murky dive into the abyss of a guilty soul, desperate for redemption but unwilling to make sacrifices, becomes “The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s” burning core.

We catch up with the Murphys, a well-off family judged by their grand suburban home. The father, Steven (Colin Farrell), is a respected heart surgeon, while his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), is an equally successful eye doctor. Their children Kim (Raffey Cassidy), a precocious teen, and her younger brother, Bob (Sunny Suljic), round out the nuclear perfection. Everything’s hunky-dory despite an eerie — if not disturbing — sedateness that pervades.

Colin Farrell plays Steven in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film. (Courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/A24)
Colin Farrell plays Steven in the new Yorgos Lanthimos film. (Courtesy Atsushi Nishijima/A24)

Weirder yet, Steven has obligatory lunches with a boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan), who’s around Kim’s age. They’re uneasy, mandatory meet-ups. Whether Martin is Steven’s illegitimate son or something more salacious, he’s clearly got his hooks into Steven, who is at a loss as to how to free himself. Steven lazily hides Martin’s existence from Anna until one night, Kim comes home from chorus practice on Martin’s motorcycle. Continue reading