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Non-Review Review: Perrier’s Bounty

Mark O’Rowe wrote a play that I had the pleasure of seeing last year called Terminus. The piece, featuring four characters narrating sensational events occurring in and around the city of Dublin in thick Northside accents and with distracting amounts of elloquence, obviously became something of a cult hit – so much so that it returned to the Abbey (our national theatre) earlier this year. I mention this purely because O’Rowe has very much fashioned the script for this Irish film from the same cloth as his theatrical success. The same elements which I enjoyed in Terminus I enjoyed in Perrier’s Bounty, and the same elements I didn’t enjoy were just magnified by the transition to film.

Parting shots?

The movie follows loveable chancer Michael as he attempts to survive being hunted by all manner of Dublin scumbags following a series of unfortunate events that stem from his basic inability to pay back a loan taken from shady underworld figure Darren Perrier. However, the marketing of the film has attempted to sell it as the next InterMission, a fantastic ground-level view of Dublin produced five or six years ago now. Perrier’s Bounty is  a very different film.

InterMission was populated with characters who felt real, a bunch of people you reckon you could see yourself bumping into on a day-to-day basis around the capital. Sure, there’s some exaggeration and sensationalism involved, but they all feel relatively organic. Perrier’s Bounty, on the other hand, is populated with the most eloquent group of scumbags I have ever seen. Take for example the two goons sent to hassle Michael in the film’s opening scene, two very disreputable looking characters but who feel the need to speak like they’ve secretly harboured dreams of joining the Royal Shakespearan Society.

It might even be grand if it were just the legally-mandated double act that did it, but everyone talks in this sort of overly grandiose style. Even when characters are demonstrated to be somewhat fallible when it comes to direct quotations (Perrier remarks on his appreciation for “the love whose name you cannot say”), it still seems more than a little bit forced. The narrator doesn’t particularly help, delivering lines like “brutal and tragic events are brewin’ up, righteous” in a Dublin accent. It is somewhat excused when his identity is finally revealed, but it’s indicative of the wider problem with the movie’s dialogue. O’Rowe is attempting to add an epic scale to events (Terminus was drawn from Homer’s The Odyssey, for trivia nerds), but it ends up coming off as a below-par Tarantino knock-off.

The movie has some other major problems as well. Not least of which is the fact that Darren Perrier, the eponymous mobster, is so clearly the most likeable character in the cast (perhaps related to the fact that actor Brendan Gleeson is the one actor who can successfully wrangle with the fauxlisophical dialogue  and gets the most laughs through his delivery) that the movie feels it has to  force him to literally shoot the dog in order to cement him as a bad guy in the eyes of the audience. Because cruelty to animals or children is an easy way to establish a character is a villain.

This isn’t to complain about the cast – who actually handle themselves quite well. Jim Broadbent does a surprisingly convincing Dublin/Drogheda accent and is great fun as Michael’s estranged father. Sure you might catch the accent slip for a moment or two (and he seems to be just replacing ths with ds), but for the most part he’s effective. I’m not entirely sold on Cillian Murphy as a shady chancer, to be honest. He’s grown a scruffy five-o’clock-shadow, but he still seems very wiry and delicate for the macho world we’re presented with. It doesn’t help that the film isn’t entirely sure about what Michael can and can’t do while remaining the hero of the piece. Breaking into a stranger’s house and blackmailing them? He can do that. Borrow some money from his neighbour to help pay off his debts? Notsomuch. Sure, we hear he’s not such a bad kid after all – there’s the requisite father-son bonding to deal with, which it turns out was for all the right reasons – but he’s still a scumbag who breaks into people’s houses to rob them.

The movie does seem too straightforward for its own good. For all the waxing philosophical that its cast does and for the smart quotes and clever lines and lovely shots of Dublin, the movie takes a very simple world view. Darren Perrier is bad (which we’ll all agree). Michael is good (the film never really explores that fact that he is… well, a criminal). Dublin city clampers? Well, we’re meant to cheer when they get their heads bashed in.

I’m probably being unduly harsh here. It’s entertaining. The performances are mostly solid. It perfectly captures Dublin itself (if not its inhabitants) on camera. It just layours everything on a bit too thick. You want to give us these sorts of smart-mouthed criminals as one facet of a near mythological journey through Dublin? Then do that, but offer us something interesting in characterisation more than “he’s got a secret in his past” or “he’ll shoot your mutt as soon as look at you” or “he’s gay”. These all seem like cinematic shortcuts rather than anything interesting or insightful of themselves.

Perrier’s Bounty is a passable film. It’s grand. I smiled and I laughed a little bit. Brendan Gleeson is great, as always. There’s just not enough going on here to make it a solid recommendation.

2 Responses

  1. Gleeson, Murphy and Broadbent sold this for me when I saw the trailer. Hopefully I’ll like it more than you did.

    • I hope you do. I get the sense that this might be one of those “each’s own” or “love it/hate it” films. It was grand, it just wasn’t anything particularly special.

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