2 May 2009

Retro Review: The Crying Game (1992)


The Crying Game
1992, 112mins, R
Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Neil Jordan
Cast include: Stephen Rea, Jaye Davidson, Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Adrain Dunbar, Jim Broadbent
Release Date: 25th November 1992

“The Crying Game” is a pre M. Night Shymalan movie built around a twist, maybe not in the same league of the central character being dead, but still it’s a pretty darn unexpected moment of reveal. Directed by Neil Jordan the film fashions itself around the Northern Irish troubles and the need for one man to escape it, and seek redemption. Jordan has mined Ireland’s conflict bound history more than once but rarely in a way as ultimately human as this, the film has moments when it loses focus but overall this is a powerful little picture fairly deserving of the cult status it has attained.

After befriending and having to eventually kill a British soldier named Jody (Forest Whitaker), IRA man Fergus (Stephen Rea) feels the need to escape his country and keep a promise he made to his deceased victim. Jody wanted, in the knowledge that his death was coming, for Fergus to go and meet up with his longtime love, and explain that in his last hours she occupied his mind. Fergus travels to her residence in London and begins to befriend Jody’s women, she’s called Dil (Jaye Davidson) , cuts hair by day, whilst moonlighting as a singer in the evenings at the local bar. The two grow increasingly close but unknown circumstances throw their relationship into chaos, whilst a few of Fergus’s IRA comrades have arrived in town, unhappy about his abandonment of the Republican cause.

The thing that really sets the “Crying Game” out as a superior motion picture are the heavyweight performances, Jordan’s screenplay requires genuinely deep and motivated turns from the cast, and for the most part they provide. As the lead Stephen Rea is rough cut but at the same time gentle and sympathetic, working hard to make the audience feel for his political criminal. In the subsequent years of his career I’ve felt extremely hot and cold in my opinions concerning Rea, but here he is undeniably outstanding. In his small role Forest Whitaker shows why he has become one of the most consistently excellent performers of his generation, the Texan providing a perfect British accent and emotive performance even with a bag over his face. As Fergus’s IRA cohorts, Adrian Dunbar and Miranda Richardson spark well of Rea, emphasizing his good hearted nature in contrast to their highly poisonous attitudes. Finally as Dil, Jaye Davidson is hypnotic, creating a character with an almost ethereal aura and who thanks to a splendid performance keeps the moments of reveal secret until the story deploys it.

The story is all about character development and an intricately planted story concerning sexual politics over love, really just using the Northern Irish troubles as a well timed catalyst for proceedings. There are points in the screenplay where Jordan seems to lose focus and the story might meander for a few minutes at a time, but largely this is a punchy and supremely unique story of passion set against historical events of significance. It’s presented in a gritty and fairly urban surrounding, Jordan seems to care little for glossing this up into the levels of cinematic superficiality, further adding to the deep routed realism that grips the movie so tight. The first twenty minutes are an explosive entry to the tale, and you might debate the film never really betters them, and I have to confess that everything post twist in “The Crying Game” is a little less impressive than what went before. Still overall you can’t argue the high levels of filmmaking skill that are infused within the item; it entertains but also provokes both your heart and mind to react in the rarest and most affecting of ways.

Overall I would have to consider this at the high end of Neil Jordan’s CV, a well written, beautifully acted and poignant little film sure to resonate with the audience majority. As long as a viewer is willing to invest a bit of emotion into Jordan’s skillfully executed picture they’re bound to gain something from the experience. It may represent a film more remembered (and much parodied) for its twist, but “The Crying Game” really is well worth watching and remains to this day plenty memorable.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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