TROJAN EDDIE(director: Gillies MacKinnon; screenwriter: Billy Roche; cinematographer: John de Borman; editor: Scott Thomas; cast: Richard Harris (John Power), Stephen Rea (Trojan Eddie), Brendan Gleeson (Ginger Power), Sean McGinley (Raymie), Angeline Ball (Shirley), Aislin McGuckin (Kathleen), Stuart Townsend (Dermot), Brid Brennan (Betty), Jason Gilroy (Patsy McDonagh); Runtime: 105; Castle Hill Productions; 1996-Ireland)
“It is worth seeing for the tremendous performances by the lead players.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Trojan Eddie” is a bleak and unsentimental portrait of a gypsy clan in a small unnamed Irish town. John Power (Richard Harris) is the 70-year-old, white-haired, gaunt faced, strong-armed patriarch to a gang of itinerant Irish gypsies, thieves, tinkers and unscrupulous salesmen known as travelers. He is mean-spirited and ornery.
The film is not a touristy tale; it is one that is based on Irish folklore. The main problem is that the story gets bogged down on unnecessary subplots, which makes it difficult to focus entirely on the main story. It is seen through the eyes of a glib and talented salesman, known as Trojan Eddie (Stephen Rea), who can’t handle things when he isn’t hustling merchandise for the big boss, John Power. His private life is a mess. His ex-wife Shirley (Ball) is a tramp. She drops by his house needing a place to stay, which he generously agrees to, but she treats him with disdain, getting his ire when she taunts him that he might not be the father of the kids. He raises their two young daughters without her help after he spent a year in prison for a bungled robbery, taking the full rap, not snitching on his weasel-like partner Rayme (Sean McGinley). Ginger Power (Brendan Gleeson), the boss’s bully son, also treats him like a loser.
Eddie is a worrier with a constant look of anxiety; he only seems happy when he’s auctioning off the stolen merchandise. He is the only character that the audience can relate to in a kindly way, even though he’s a lowlife hustler willing to cheat his friends and neighbors. He might have some appeal and some might find him to be in a strange way likable despite being a hustler.
Harris is powerful as an old, prideful man, who can’t forget how tough he was as a youth. He is intimidating to everyone around him. Only, he is saddened by the loss of his wife and eyes a sexy teen-age girl who reminds him of her, Kathleen (Aislin McGuckin). He tempts this itinerant girl with his possessions and asks her hand in marriage. After she accepts, she is chaperoned home by Eddie and his hustling partner, Dermot (Stuart Townsend), John’s nephew, a kid about the age of Kathleen’s. Dermot has sex with her in the field and John finds out about this, though he is not sure if it is Dermot or a boy seen talking to her afterwards, Patsy McDonagh (Jason Gilroy). But he still insists on the wedding.
At the wedding the couple collect eleven thousand pounds for their dowry in a tin box, which Eddie brings into the house and gives to Kathleen. But she has other plans as she runs away on her wedding night with Dermot and with the money, to the embarrassment of John. He immediately sends his men out looking for them. He also thinks Eddie might be a part of this, warning him that all will be forgiven if the girl comes back when she is ready and the money is returned intact.
The cast is top-notch, led by Harris’s bone-chilling arrogant hoodlum portrayal; he is someone who can’t stop bullying people. Rea is equally as good, in a role that is a take-off on the frenetic Crazie Eddie character who years ago was seen hawking goods on American TV. He is emotionally wrought at not being able to straighten his life out, and not till the very end of the film do we see him get some satisfaction from dealing with his bullying boss.
The landscape reflected the hard life of its denizens. It showed the muddy roads of the rural Ireland community, their shanty houses, the dingy buildings where the salesmen auctioned off the stolen goods, and the rotten attitude the itinerants had toward the townies.
The actors brought life and passion to this morbid story of failed love, a failed love for both the young and the old. It is a story of how self-interest and thievery rule the day. A very scornful look at what some will do to get what they want or think they want. It is worth seeing for the tremendous performances by the lead players and the gritty local flavor of an out of the way place, not usually seen in a film emanating from Ireland.
Written by Irish playwright Billy Roche and directed with verve by Gillies MacKinnon, whose last feature, Small Faces, was a coming of age tale set in the violence-ridden housing projects of Glasgow in the ’60s.
REVIEWED ON 2/20/2000 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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