The General - B
Viewed January 9, 1999 at the Lincoln Plaza

John Boorman's take on the life and death on the apparently well-known Irish criminal Tim Cahill (can't say I've ever heard of him, though) is reminiscent of Richard Linklater's The Newton Boys. Both have, in their undisguised rooting for their scufflaw protagonists, the genial air of grownups giddily recreating their childhood games of cops 'n robbers and remembering it's always more fun to be the bad guy. Brandon Gleeson's portrayal of Cahill reinforces the generally juvenile tone of Boorman's film -- he plays Cahill as a man stuck in permanent adolescensce hanging out with his gang. If this makes the film sound rather superficial, that's because superficiality is The General's main problem. Boorman is so interested in mythologizing his hero as a folk icon that he neglects to illuminate what makes this man tick. It's solidly entertaining (Gleeson turns in a larger-than-life performance that manages to be both comic and menacing), and the black-and-white photography is wonderful to look at; but the real interesting questions about Cahill are never answered. (Like : How does this Irish potato of a fellow manage to have two women be steadfastly loyal to him? Does this mean there's hope for me yet?)