The General

The General

directed by John Boorman

Sony Pictures Classics

Let’s say you’re poor and Irish and starving and searching for a career in Dublin. Real estate? Telemarketing? Candle Stick Maker? Master criminal? Aahh..now THAT’S the ticket for Martin Cahill! Flexible hours, no benefits, meet interesting people and steal their stuff. As a boy, he vows to never get caught. Still, he spends a few years “inside,” and then succeeds in pulling off an astoundingly low stakes stick up at an arcade combine. He nicks a bag of 1 pound coins, which he dumps to lose the law hot on his tail. This helps for, oh, maybe 5 minutes. While on trial for this low-budget, low-risk, low-return job, he conceives, executes, and sort of gets away with a $69 million jewelry heist. In his spare time, Martin breaks into a law library to find a loophole in the burglary laws which gets him released. Breaking into a public library just to read a book — a true professional.

The wily Dublin Garda assign 20 cops to watch him 24 hours a day. Despite the cop-a-rama, Cahill heists several fine but hard to fence masters. He stashes them in a muddy hole until mildew makes them unidentifiable. A lovable rogue, but a lousy art conservator. Martin’s wife helpfully suggests he have a go with her sister. This cheers him, and soon he’s back to nailing his buddy to a snooker table for stealing. It’s all in a days work for The General . Cahill is compulsive about not showing his face in public due to his bad hair comb-over. Eventually he sells a traceable, easily identified, and unlikely to be found at a yard sale Vermeer to the wrong side in the Irish civil war. Bang bang, you’re dead, so much for that flash back.

The General was filmed in glorious black and white, insuring that future generations will not lose this gem to fading Kodacolor. The film is technically well done, with some of the best Foley work ever, but the main character is a right bastard, and deserves to die. You root for the cops as soon as they appear. There are some inspired moments of violence, and two very clever robbery schemes, but this film lacks understandable dialog. Like a number of recent Irish films, the dialect is so thick that subtitles are required even after two Guiness Stouts. The General is Irish Film Noir, and is burdened with Irish Accent Noir. It does show that crime doesn’t pay, at least not very well, if you’re hoping for a 401k plan.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Metallica: The $24.95 Book
    Metallica: The $24.95 Book

    From an underground band that pioneered the thrash metal sound, to arguably the biggest rock act in the new millennium, Metallica has had a long and tumultuous history. Ben Apatoff scours a myriad of sources to catalog this history in his new book.

  • Araceli Lemos
    Araceli Lemos

    Shortly after AFI Fest 2021 wrapped, Generoso spoke at length with director, Araceli Lemos about her award-winning and potent feature debut, Holy Emy. Lemos’s film uses elements of body horror in her story about the exoticization of two Filipina sisters living in Greece and how that exploitation creates a distance between them.

  • Southern Accents 55
    Southern Accents 55

    A woofin’ good time with cuts from Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Delta Moon and more from KMRD 96.9, Madrid, New Mexico!

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    Absurdism with a healthy dose of air conditioning.

  • Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist
    Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist

    Like pre-teens throwing every liquid into the kitchen blender and daring each other to drink the results, Woody and Jeremy fuse all manner of sounds legitimate and profane into some murky concoction that tastes surprisingly good.

  • Demons/Demons 2
    Demons/Demons 2

    Synapse Films reissues Lamberto Bava’s epic ’80s gore-filled movies Demons and Demons 2 in beautiful new editions.

  • Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson
    Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson

    Searching for the Disappearing Hour (Pyroclastic Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Payal Kapadia
    Payal Kapadia

    Earlier this year, director Payal Kapadia was awarded the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) for best documentary at the 74th Cannes Film Festival for her debut feature, A Night of Knowing Nothing. Lily and Generoso interviewed Kapadia about her poignant film, which employs a hybrid-fiction technique to provide a personal view of the student protests that engulfed Indian colleges and universities during the previous decade.

  • Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
    Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

    A classic children’s tale re-imagined by America’s greatest composers.

From the Archives