Perrier's Bounty

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/15/11 15:47:36

"Murder, stolen cars, parking tickets."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Does film's articulate-criminal/caper genre tell us something about the various cultures it appears in? Just among English speakers, you see clear differences, especially in the language: The Americans have their staccato cursing; with the Brits use it as a marker for class mobility (or the lack thereof). What of the Irish, then? Why, poetry and romance, of course, even when the words are casual and the situations rapidly spin out of control.

Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy) is no master criminal; he's just a guy without a proper job. What he does have is a crush on his neighbor Brenda (Jodie Whittaker), a father (Jim Broadbent) convinced he's about to die, and two thugs (Michael McElhatton and Don Wycherley) who show up to tell him he has his choice of two broken bones unless he pays the grand he owes to their boss, Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson). He figures to shift his debt by borrowing the money from The Mull (Liam Cunningham), but he's not flush. A confrontation with Bren's boyfriend Shamie (Padraic Delaney) gives him an opportunity to earn more money than he needs, but also leads to breaking & entering, stolen cars, warrior dogs, dead bodies, a price on his head, and a great many parking violations.

The script, especially at the start, is wonderfully tight; writer Mark O'Rowe does an unusually good job of tying the opportunities, double-crosses, and disasters together so that the entire story ultimately comes back to Michael and his desire to do right by people. It's easy for a story like this to degenerate into complete randomness, and while there are certainly moments where coincidence takes over, O'Rowe strikes a nice balance between having things be unpredictable and there being some sense to how things play out. He also picks good words to put in his characters' mouths and amusing situations to put them in.

Perhaps nobody benefits from O'Rowe's dialogue more than Brendan Gleeson. Perrier is a brutal gangster who, nevertheless, is a sensitive, emotional man, and seeing him hurt because people thought he was a bastard outside of business is kind of hilarious (especially when he flinches at putting his sensitivity to the test a minute later). Jim Broadbent has a lot of good material, too, and his rambling gets funnier as the movie goes on, especially once we learn the reason for it, and as the movie goes on, both his comic timing and his pathos get sharper. The other supporting characters are all well-cast as well, each taking his moment and making the most of it.

Against all those colorful types, it might be easy for Cillian Murphy and Jodie Whittaker to come off looking a bit bland, but that doesn't wind up being the case. There's an easy camaraderie between them, and Murphy is good at showing just how much Michael fancies Brenda without making him look like a lovesick teenager. They're fun to watch together, and they each make their characters worth rooting for: Whittaker finds bits of strength to Bren even when she's being hurt; Murphy by letting us see how Michael basically wants to do the right thing even while showing that he's at least got the skills of a criminal.

Director Ian Fitzgibbon certainly gives the impression of knowing when to stand back and let his cast work and when to give them a nudge in the right direction. He's maybe a bit wobblier on how to approach the mayhem - his instinct rightly seems to be to avoid using murder as slapstick most of the time, but a couple moments seem a bit too mean as a result. For the bulk of the picture, though, Fitzgibbon does a nice job of keeping the movie moving along at a crisp pace, and the picture feels polished but not overly slick.

Fitzgibbon is building a nice little reputation with this sort of comedy - his previous movie, "A Film With Me In It", was darker and grimier but built along similar lines. "Perrier's Bounty" is a more easily digestible sort of crime picture, but it's still funny and charming with just enough punch to keep the audience on its toes.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.