Intermission (2003)


(director: John Crowley; screenwriter: Mark O’Rowe; cinematographer: Ryszard Lenczewski; editor: Lucia Zucchetti; music: John Murphy; cast: Colin Farrell (Lehiff), Cillian Murphy (John), David Wilmot (Oscar), Michael McElhatton (Sam), Colm Meaney (Jerry Lynch), Ger Ryan (Maura), Shirley Henderson (Sally), Deidre O’Kane (Noeleen), Kelly Macdonald (Deidre), Taylor Molloy (Phillip), Tom O’Sullivan (Ben), Brian F. O’Byrne (Mick), Owen Roe (Mr. Henderson), Ger Ryan (Maura, mother of Deidre & Sally), Taylor Molloy (Phillip); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Neil Jordan/Alan Moloney/Stephen Woolley; IFC Films; 2003)

“A feisty but forgettable film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irishman John Crowley, a theater director, makes his filmmaking debut in this ill-fated black comedy/romance exposing the anger of the working-class Dubliners. Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe wrote the script the UK critics compared to the ensemble comedies of Magnolia and Short Cuts, which I found to be an erroneous comparison. The only thing this film filled me with was disgust and a feeling that it had absolutely nothing to say except to energetically set in motion a series of violent incidents, unveil a multitude of shocking scenes of mean-spirited cruelty and keep the inane dialogue going with a constant barrage of foul language. I don’t know where the comedy was and found the drama part particularly unpleasant and unimportant, and the romance hardly my idea of something meaningful.

In the gray squalid suburbs of Dublin, a dozen or so strangers will have their miserable lives intersect. The chain of events gets off to a jolting start when menacing bad boy psychopath Lehiff (Colin Farrell), a name lifted from a James Joyce novel, successfully flirts with the young female barmaid behind the counter and then suddenly punches her out to rob the cash register. After that explosive and unpredictable start, nothing further happens that is worth telling.

We then follow the plight of unhappy supermarket stock boy John (Cillian Murphy) who angrily feels betrayed that his recent ex, the twentysomething Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald), is taking up residence with a so-called “baldy cunt,” a middle-aged adulterous bank manager named Sam (McElhatton). The film’s title comes from John telling Deidre it’s time for a temporary test breakup or “intermission,” as she is someone he loves but doesn’t know how much until she’s with another. John’s best mate Oscar (Wilmot), also a supermarket shelf-stacker and idler, is a frustrated, lonesome and creepy lad who looks for older women in bars to seduce. One of the ladies he has a sexual encounter with becomes so aggressive that she displeases him. The lady coincidentally will be Sam’s wife of 14 years Noeleen (Deidre O’Kane). Added to the unpleasant mix of characters is the smug Henderson (Owen Roe), the heavy-handed supermarket manager who is fond of using clich√© terms in the way they do in the States and showing contempt for the two slackers under his supervision.

Jerry (Colm Meaney) is a violent detective whose idea of justice is to piss on the boots of criminal suspect Lehiff and harass all the perps he encounters or just knock them around for sport. The ambitious TV filmmaker Ben (O’Sullivan) has talked his boss into making a reality TV documentary about the self-aggrandizing Jerry in action on the mean streets. Jerry is more than flattered to be the featured star of such a heavy-hitting gritty project.

Deirdre’s mustachioed sister Sally (Shirley Henderson) lets her hair grow because she is down-in-the-dumps and distrusts all men because her last steady man robbed her, tied her up and took a dump on her. She will eventually find Oscar as a romantic interest, as they talk mustache talk which was about as tender as anything gets in this pic.

The film builds to its centerpiece event of an absurd kidnapping of Sam and a holding of Deidre as hostage by a trio of masked men seeking to rob Sam’s bank. A fired bus driver Mick (Brian O’Byrne) is upset that his bus filled withpassengers was overturned when a punky youngster (Taylor Molloy) maliciously threw rocks at the windshield. Angry that no one believes him when he says that was the cause of the accident, Mick joins the lovesick and also now unemployed John to go along with Lehiff’s robbery scheme. The botched bank robbery gets forgotten in the aftermath of some more absurd plot twists, as the complicated but uninteresting lives of the main characters just keeps spinning out-of-control in such an unseemly way that it can’t tidy up this messy film.

The shakily handheld camera for the DV shots and the poor quality of color tone makes viewing an added chore to trying to understand the thick Irish brogues. But what really got my attention was how this crudely profane depiction of rogues acting loudly and boorishly never added up to much of anything, except as a feisty but forgettable film.