Friday, February 19, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 97

Night Writer

About the Cougar

Despite crude humor and overly wild antics, The General is still in charge

The General

Starring: Brendan Gleeson and John Voight
Running Time: 129 Minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Our Rating: ***1/2

Our view: The General is at times crude, but overall it is a fairly decent film.

By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff

Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) lives for conning and making fun of the system. The General, produced, directed and written by John Boorman, is based on the life of Martin Cahill. This man became notorious in Ireland for robbing and getting away from the authorities.

Seamus Deasy, the cinematographer of The General, shot the movie in black and white to present a film that stands apart from the rest in appearance.

Gleeson's acting is very convincing. At times, it appears he is in his own world, almost as if he is unaware of the camera.

The approach of all the actors is very straightforward, without any kind of gimmicks, and the dialogue and characters seem very natural, especially since The General presents real people.

Martin lives outside the law. He does not apply the rules of the community and church to himself. A very colorful character, Martin refuses to give in to the system. He uses his street smarts and resourcefulness to avoid more jail time.

He shows blatant disrespect for authority and rarely follows any kind of rules. This is especially obvious in his private life, as he is the father of two different families in one home. (Can we say polygamy?) Furthermore, one of his wives is his own sister, Tina (Angeline Ball).

He breaks into homes, banks and even museums, always finding ways to enjoy himself in the midst of crime.

Ironically, one of Martin's most devoted admirers is Inspector Ned Kenny (John Voight). The honest and dedicated policeman changes his attitude toward Martin, however, after the thief gets involved with selling guns.

Ned begins to realize his bizarre connection with Martin after he brutally beats up the ex-con.

"You are becoming more like me," Martin says.

Voight is the same as Gleeson, conveying a working-class quality on his performance that makes his role worthy of praise.

Most of the characters from The General seem overwhelmed by the larger-than-life Martin. His wives, Tina and Frances (Maria Doyle Kennedy), rarely protest anything. He cares for both but refuses to respect either of them at all.

For instance, when Tina is in the midst of giving birth to their child, Martin tells her to wait until he finishes watching the news on television.

Boorman keeps the story real by showing Martin's merits and flaws and also by creating some room for the audience to draw its own conclusions. Still, Boorman wishes to win the audience with Martin's sense of humor and irreverence.

The General not only focuses on how the mobster operates but also illustrates how he does or does not relate with others. Martin's unusual lifestyle and relationship with his family are well described in this film.

Boorman illustrates again and again the charm of Martin's personality. Martin's crimes seem to be softened by his spontaneous good nature. Overall, he is not a bad person and simply appears to be a man who never wishes to grow old.

However, the audience cannot be fooled and eventually loses compassion for the main character of The General, since he is a very erratic and uncaring man.

The humor in the film is sharp, entertaining and often contributes effectively to the plot. Additionally, it is crude and almost in bad taste.

The General emphasizes how people have different dimensions, and in a humorous way, explains how people who have little opportunities in life resent society.

Perhaps, The General and its main character create mixed feelings and questions in the audience. Still, it is impossible to feel indifferent about the film.

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