Ireland, 2003. Rated R. 106 minutes.

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Kelly MacDonald, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney, Shirley Henderson, David Wilmot, Brian F. O'Byrne, Michael McElhatton, Dierdre O'Kane, Ger Ryan, Tom O'Sullivan, Owen Roe, Taylor Molloy, Barbara Bergin
Writer: Mark O'Rowe
Cinematographer: Ryszard Lenczewski
Producer: Steve Woolley, Neil Jordan, Alan Moloney
Director: John Crowley


Grade: B- Review by Carlo Cavagna

A s critics are contractually obligated to mention Robert Altman in conjunction with any film containing multiple storylines and minimal exposition, one could say that Intermission is kind of like Robert Altman-meets-Guy Ritchie—a tapestry of multiple stories with characters at the bottom of the food chain, whose struggles to improve their lot in life grow progressively more absurd.

Flush with newly earned Hollywood fame, Colin Farrell returns to his native Ireland to play Lehiff, a petty thug with a tendency to punch women in the face. The notoriously hard-drinking, hard-partying actor seems more comfortable in Lehiff's shoes than the polished characters he's played in Hollywood movies like Phone Booth and S.W.A.T. Though not the protagonist, Lehiff is the catalyst of John Crowley's tragicomic Intermission, produced by Neil Jordan's and Stephen Woolley's newly formed Company of Wolves. Farrell's participation is probably the only reason Intermission has found U.S. distribution—the Irish accents are thick and the production is bare bones—but this film is still about the universal yearnings for love, acceptance, and respect.

Colm Meaney (Commander O'Brien of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine), plays Jerry, the self-styled maverick cop who has it in for Lehiff. An ex-boxer of the coulda-been-a-contenda variety, Jerry fancies himself an anticrime crusader, but he can't even break up a drug buy without getting his car stolen. Despite his haplessness, Jerry has the hubris to believe that he is the ideal star for a documentary being planned by Ben (Tom O'Sullivan), a local news reporter determined to make edgier pieces than his producer will allow. “On the Streets with Detective Jerry Lynch,” a lexicon of bad-cop-movie jargon, is the result.

Colin Farrell
Colin Farrell stars in Intermission

Meanwhile, insecure John (Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later and Girl with a Pearl Earring), who spends his days working at a supermarket for sadistic Mr. Henderson (Owen Roe), has the brilliant idea of breaking up with his girlfriend Deirdre (Kelly MacDonald of Trainspotting and Gosford Park) in order to test her devotion. Instead, Deirdre takes up with middle-aged jackass Sam (Michael McElhatton), who leaves his wife Noeleen (Deirdre O'Kane), destroying her self esteem. Noeleen goes to ineffective self-empowerment classes, but what she really needs is a vigorous romp with John's best friend Oscar (David Wilmot), a suspicious consumer of pornography who's gotten so lonely he “can't even wank.” Deirdre's sister Sally (Shirley Henderson of Wonderland and Bridget Jones's Diary) is even worse off—having been tied up and unusually violated, she has completely withdrawn from the world.

In addition to creating unreasonable situations that grow out of these characters' bad ideas, Intermission is propelled by the actors' urgent performances and its running gags—Sally's moustache, the paraplegic barfly, Cleveland Steamers, woks, steak sauce in coffee, and Jerry's “only real human quality to speak of.” The bad ideas farcically culminate in a poorly planned kidnapping that leads to two intercut climactic chase sequences. However, unlike the characters in Guy Ritchie's films, Intermission 's characters actually attain some self-insight at the end. Their desires may express themselves in small and petty ways, but they are desires common to us all.

Review © March 2004 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2004 IFC Films. All Rights Reserved.

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