Neil Young’s Film Lounge – interMission

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

INTERMISSION

7/10

Ireland (Ire/UK) 2003 : John CROWLEY : 103 mins

The enigmatically-titled interMission arrives on the UKs multiplex screens only days before another Colin Farrell movie, SWAT, barrels noisily into town. Of course, interMission isnt really a Colin Farrell movie as such : although top-billed, he’s just one among a crowd of faces in a low-budget but ambitious Irish comedy-drama. In SWAT, conversely, Farrell is second-billed behind Samuel L Jackson, but is in fact the lead the latest step in his startlingly fast rise to super-stardom.

Working back home for the first time since abortive Kevin Spacey vehicle Ordinary Decent Criminal, Ballykissangel graduate Farrell has an absolute ball as a thoroughly unredeemable, hard-as-nails criminal lowlife named Lahiff. He even gets to belt/snarl out The Clashs I Fought the Law – in character and surprisingly well – over the closing credits, something he probably won’t be able to do on his forthcoming Alexander the Great biopic for Oliver Stone.

interMission is clearly a breather indeed an intermission – for Farrell, but it isn’t quite the rough-arsed little fillum its publicists might have you believe. There are plenty of well-known names involved both behind the camera (one of the producers is Neil Jordan) and in front: Star Trek refugee Colm Meaney is Lahiffs nemesis Lynch, a Popeye Doyle-style tough cop with an amusing fondness for mystical Celtic music and an insatiable appetite for publicity; Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later and Girl with a Pearl Earring) is John, who can’t get over the breakup of his relationship with girlfriend Deidre (Kelly Macdonald). Scottish actress Macdonald (from Trainspotting) does a fair Irish accent as Deidre, as does the suddenly-ubiquitous Shirley Henderson (Wilbur) as Deirdres frumpy sister Sally.

In a uniformly strong ensemble, they’re matched by less familiar faces like David Wilmot as Johns unlucky-in-love best mate Oscar; Tom OSullivan as Ben, a pretentious TV producer who hopes to convince his bosses that the swaggering Lynch is a suitable for small-screen attention; and Deidre OKane as Noeleen, a fortyish but sexually voracious housewife devastated when her bank-manager husband Sam (Michael McElhatton) walks out on her and shacks up with Deidre.

But the real credit should go to director Crowley and writer Mark ORowe. Crowleys camerawork is a little zoom-happy at times (a la Catherine Hardwickes thirteen), but, perhaps steadied by Polish cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski, his visuals end up kinetic without crossing the line to gimmickily in-your-face-ness. The films grainy look is entirely in keeping with ORowes earthy script, which for a long while brings the characters together in ways that feel less contrived than is usually the case in the increasingly popular urban-intersections subgenre. The second half is a little more uneven, however the situations are perhaps a little over-familiar from both big screen and large; some of the more violent developments later on smack a little of movie-makers contrivance, and the way nearly everyone is paired off with a partner is a little too neat. These are minor quibbles, however: interMission is an entertainingly rough-edged, lively little picture with a character very much of its own although Crowley and ORawe clearly aren’t bothered about concealing their debts to other movies.

The presence of Macdonald in the cast would seem to indicate that the opening sequences echoes of Trainspotting (shaven-headed Lahiff is chased through a busy shopping centre by police) is a deliberate tribute. But the shadow of Paul Thomas Andersons Magnolia hangs much too heavily over too many sequences to be excused as homage when the delusional Meaney imagines himself the hero of a documentary cop-show, its too close to John C Reillys unhappy cop from Andersons movie. And, as in Magnolia, Crowley punctuates his dialogue-heavy film with more contemplative passages where John Murphys score accompanies wordless montages of the various characters in extremis.

If youre going to steal, of course, you might as well steal from the best. But Crowley and Rowe shouldn’t need to steal at all they’re capable of original, striking stuff of their own, as in their witty, satisfying and (quite literally) shattering final shot.

5th December, 2003
(seen 2nd December : UGC Boldon Colliery)

by Neil Young