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|Cowboys and Angels|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr David Gleeson|
with Michael Legge, Allen Leech, Amy Shiels, David Murray, Frank Kelly, Colm Coogan, Maeve McGrath, Sean Power, Alvaro Lucchesi, Nigel Mercier, Angela Harding, Frank Coughlan
release US 17.Sep.04,
UK 1.Apr.05 llgff
New best friends: Leech and Legge
There's a bright tone to this Irish coming-of-age movie that keeps us involved even after the plot takes some badly contrived turns. But strong characters and performances make it almost watchable.
Shane (Legge) is a young guy moving out on his own, sharing a flat in Limerick with Vincent (Leech), a guy he knew in school. They become close friends, talking about hopes and dreams, sex and sexuality. Shane feels a bit left out because he's not gay, like Vincent, then he falls for Vincent's friend Gemma (Shiels). But he also befriends Keith (Murray), a drug-dealing neighbour who gets him involved in all kinds of dangerous activity.
The characters are so fresh and interesting, and their relationships and personal journeys so involving, that it's a shame writer-director Gleeson felt the need to tack on a hackneyed drug-thriller plotline. It's so preachy and unnecessary that it sabotages the entire movie, highlighting the script's other contrivances and undermining the genuinely strong dialog and chemistry between the cast members.
Legge (Angela's Ashes) and Leech (Man About Dog) are magnetic presence --we really root for them, even when the filmmaker puts them through the wringer. Legge has a terrific fragility that balances Leech's bright energy. Their parallel journeys of self-discovery and their gently developing friendship are played out realistically and engagingly. We feel their impatience to grow up. So the emergence of such a far-fetched drug drama is seriously annoying. Shane is simply not this stupid; we might believe him falling into addiction, but not this level of horrific criminality. And then just when it gets oppressively overwrought, there's the goofy gay makeover montage to lighten things up.
It's such an awkward blend that we begin to identify more with Vincent's rage than with Shane's confusion and despair, which is clearly not Gleeson's intention. And it also becomes moralistic and cautionary, with far too many convenient plot twists and too much corny dialog. This is incredibly frustrating, since the central friendship would've been strong enough to carry the film. We really want to follow these two young men on this journey. But the filmmaker can't get out of the way.
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