Crime comedies have been around for an awfully long time. That said, when Guy Ritchie brought us ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’ back in the late ’90s/early 2000’s, everything changed. You no longer had to choose whether you would watch a highly intricate, deadly serious heist or some variation on the ‘Pink Panther’ series. The two could certainly intertwine and just as importantly, these new templates showed us a perspective that is distinctly a product of the United Kingdom. Continuing in that same vein, in 2003, director John Crowley helped to bring us a Neil Jordan production entitled ‘Intermission.’
The plots are all over the place and there are nearly a dozen main characters to keep track of. John (Cillian Murphy) works at a supermarket and plans to kidnap/rob the current beau of his ex-girlfriend Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald), an older bank manager named Sam. Sam has left his wife of fourteen years to be with Deirdre. Deirdre’s sister, Sally (Shirley Henderson) has been betrayed by a man in her past and has really, really let herself go. Lehiff (Colin Farrell) is a young man who is always afoul of the law. He is under the especially watchful eye of Detective Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney), an overly excitable man with big plans and an inflated sense of self. Jerry meets an ambitious filmmaker named Ben (Tomas O’Suilleabhain) who gets his hopes up for fame. There is also a bus driver named Mick (Brian F. O’Byrne) who crashed his bus when a young boy threw a stone through his windshield.
These ensemble productions are usually high risk, high reward. On one hand, it’s highly rewarding to have a large cast and many different storyline to follow. It can really go a long way in holding the viewer’s interest. Boredom is less a possibility when you only spend five minutes at a time with a character’s story before you get whisked away to another situation for a little while.
The flip side is that we sometimes get shortchanged when this method is employed. Actually, some of the characters get shortchanged. Though he is featured prominently, Lehiff is really one-dimensional and we learn very little about him except for the fact that he is a troublemaker. Sally’s troubles are explained via exposition and for much of the time, the only thing she really does about it is lash out at people and grow a mustache. Her mother can only passively attempt to mediate the rift between the sisters, but we get to spend extremely little time with her.
Don’t look for broad comedy here. You might not even technically do any laughing during this viewing experience. The humor that is present is irony driven, subtle and dark. It’s less smile-inducing and more smirk-inducing. Aside from a few memorable moments, comedy doesn’t even seem to be the focus.
This is a story that is filled with many unlikeable characters. Some of them grow, some of them don’t, but we are supposed to revel in the situations that these people get themselves into. Sometimes it’s their own fault, some of them have no control over it. Of course, many of the stories collide with one another. If they didn’t, what would be the point?
With all of this going on, the tone and focus of the story is terribly difficult to pinpoint. Is this a heist film, a drama, a comedy, or a romance? It’s really all four but as a result, each genre suffers a little bit from the lack of focus.
The distinctly Irish setting and characters help to set this apart from its American counterparts and there is something to be said for the intimately small-scale on which the story operates. One fiery bus crash aside, the budget seems to be rather modest. That never really reveals itself to be a hindrance on the plot.
Perhaps it’s because this examiner is partial to his work, but Cillian Murphy’s John is one of the more absurdly ambitious and misguided characters and thus, the most fun to watch. Colm Meany gets a gold star, as well.
Special features include: deleted scenes and a trailer,
With ‘Intermission’ we have a perfectly serviceable film that certainly has some very good points. The title is rather telling, though, as it feels like a series of extended interludes in a larger plot that doesn’t really exist. Good luck trying to remember a lot about this story a week or so after seeing it. Some moments, images and character may stay with you, but relatively little distinguishes it from a lot of the higher profile and simply put, better, films of this ilk.
Rated R 105 minutes 2003
When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!