Martin Cahill is a family man, psychopath, folk hero, and gangster; for 20 years he has eluded capture by the police and wound up stealing over $60 million until the IRA decided to put him out of business once and for all.... more »
"This was the second best film of the year, and certainly the most beautifully photographed in widescreen black and white. Just don't expect that from the DVD. It contains two versions black and white and a "desaturated color version." The black and white version is shown 1.85:1, not the original 2.35:1. The color version was obviously done on a computer, with some footage in color, while most is still in black and white. You would think you could solve the problem by turning off the color on your t.v. pre-sets, but it turns out the only available audio has all obscenities dubbed out, like on network television. Save your money untill Columbia represses the disc."
Brendan Gleeson In An Excellent John Boorman Film
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 10/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Martin Cahill was a real person. He didn't drink or smoke, had a loving if unconventional family life with his wife, her sister and their kids, didn't womanize. He also was clever, funny, charismatic, ruthless, and, up until the end, a successful Dublin criminal (corrected from Belfast; thanks, mad saro). He didn't see his crimes as vice, just as an occupation. In addition to hundreds of burglaries and thefts beginning when he was scarcely a teen, he was smart enough to pull off two immense robberies, the first involving a large number of gold bars and jewels, the other of extremely valuable paintings. He wound up on the bad side of the cops, of the IRA, of the Unionists and even of one of his gang members.
John Boorman has written and directed a fascinating life of Martin Cahill, and in Brendan Gleeson he found an actor who has made the role come perfectly to life. Martin Cahill was a shrewd and stubborn man. He grew up in some of the worst of public housing in Dublin. He had no use for the police, except as a butt of his contempt. When civic powers begin to tear down his housing flat, he refused to move. They and the police finally offer him a flat near by. No, he says, I want a house in...and he names one of the better parts of Dublin. "But wouldn't you rather live with your own kind," a pompous city type asks him. "Oh no," Cahill says to the man and to the police standing nearby, "I'd rather live closer to me work." He gets his house, and his standard of living improves markedly. As one critic said, Martin Cahill was Robin Hood but with a twist; he stole from the rich and gave to himself. Once when his wife and sister-in-law convince him to buy a nice house, he learns he can't pay for it with cash; he needs a bank draft. He goes to the bank with 80,000 pounds sterling, gets his bank draft...and as soon as he leaves, has his gang rob the bank and retrieve his 80,000.
He doesn't like to be questioned and he doesn't like betrayal. When he thinks one of his gang has talked about a theft, he personally nails the man's hands to a snooker table. Afterwards, when he decides the guy must be telling the truth, he pulls the nails out, tells him, "You came through with flying colors, Jimmy," and drives him to the emergency room of a hospital where he insists the doctors treat him immediately.
Throughout all of this, he's fascinating. We wind up reluctantly admiring him for facing down the guarda who are after him and who don't have clean hands, either. He's not intimidated by the IRA who tell him clearly they want the take from Cahill's cleverly planned robbery of O'Connor's Wholesale Jewelry warehouse. He faces down with contempt an effort by the Unionists to warn him off their territory. And all the while the guarda have become incensed by Cahill's success and impudence.
The end of the movie is the beginning of the movie. We learn Martin Cahill's fate in the first three minutes. The rest of the movie is the intriguing story of just what made Cahill so interesting and so successful as a criminal.
Brendan Gleeson is an excellent actor. He's a beefy guy and had to wear a lank comb-over throughout. He captures the charisma and the passion behind Martin Cahill. Cahill may have been the product of Belfast's Catholic slums; he may have had only a sketchy education, but Gleeson nails Cahill as a leader of men, a funny, skeptic, crafty and dangerous man. John Voight plays police inspector Ned Kenny, an aging cop who is determined one way or another to bring Cahill down. Cahill's gang are all made up of first-rate Irish actors, including Adrian Dunbar and Sean McGinley. Maria Doyle Kennedy as Cahill's wife and Angeline Ball as her sister, both of whom share Cahill in a loving and affectionate relationship, are first-rate.
John Boorman has created an engrossing portrait of a complex man, and he has produced a movie which is well worth owning and watching. The DVD comes as black-and-white on one side, as it was theatrically shown, and with desaturated color on the other side. Stick with the black-and-white. The DVD transfer is excellent, and the black and white images of Belfast, often damp and dank, add much to the quality of the movie. There are cast filmographies but no other significant extras"
Brendan Gleason as the charming Irish rogue, Martin Cahill
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The home of director John Boorman was one robbed by Martin Cahill, who stole, among other things, the gold record from Boorman's wall for "Dueling Banjos," the hit single from his film "Deliverance." That scene is included in Boorman's 1998 film "The General," along with Cahill's disgust at learning gold records are not made of gold, and helps to establish the idea that Cahill is an engaging rogue. Most of that particular task is accomplished by Brendan Gleason, who creates such a likeable character that when he nails one of his men to a snooker table to force a confession, we are inclined to overlook the act of violence.I checked out "The General" after watching "Veronica Guerin," in which Cahill's murder is an early scene. Ironically, both films begin the same way, with the death of the title character. We then go back to the point in their lives where the filmmaker begins to explain how they came to such a violent end. Cahill starts off stealing potatoes and promising young Frances that he will never be caught. Having been forced to break this promise once he grows up to be man who plans on avoiding returning to prison by planning his robberies with such care than he is nicknamed "The General." But he also has a great sense of flair, which he demonstrates when his wife and mistress, who happen to be sisters, persuade him to buy a house for 80,000 pounds. Then there is his habit of always wearing a hood or having his hand in front of his face in public so that his picture can never be taken. The Dublin police play into making Cahill look good by sinking to his level and well below. There is also the clear implication at the start of the film that there were complicit in Cahill's murder, although more by an act of omission than commission. So when the police put first Cahill and then his gang under 24-hour surveillance, we enjoy it as he finds a series of ways to get the better of them, with relative ease. In the end, it is not his dealings with the police, but rather his disdain for the IRA that is going to get him killed.Jon Voight plays Ned Kenny, the cop turned inspector who is supposed to be Cahill's nemesis, but who does not really get to do enough to even be a model of futility in his pursuit of the criminal and his gang. Adrian Dunbar as Noel Curley and Sean McGiley as Gary are Cahill's chief henchmen and it was a treat to see two-thirds of the backup singers from "The Committments" showing up in this film, with Maria Doyle Kennedy as Frances and a black tressed Angeline Ball as Tina. I keep seeing comparisons between Cahill and Robin Hood, followed by an inevitable caveat that Cahill took from the rich and kept it for himself, but I think that misses the mark. Cahill is more in the mode of Jesse James, who also enjoyed popular support in his community without always spreading around the wealth. The American outlaw also had more of a violent streak, even in the popular folklore about his robberies, than the outlaw of Sherwood Forest. Consequently I see the Robin Hood analogy as another attempt to make Cahill look better than he was, which Boorman's film has absolutely no trouble doing. In the end, "The General" is neither a celebration of Cahill's life nor a warning about the path to be avoided, but a look at a captivating rogue, which is always an interesting journey."
Colorful Portrait of a Unique Criminal
Terry Knapp | Santa Rosa, CA United States | 08/14/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a gritty, human tale told with irony, humor and more than a little violence. Gleeson is great in the title role. I can't help but wonder, however, which version the director initially intended to be seen theatrically: the black and white (which, incidentally, is presented in a 1.85:1 ratio, rather than the advertised 2.35:1) or the desaturated color version (which is 2.35:1)?"
"It's Us Against Them."
Bernard Chapin | CHICAGO! USA | 12/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After seeing The General a second time, I have to say that Brendan Gleeson is one of the finest actors of our day. He impresses time and again be it in Troy, Gangs of New York, or in another Irish classic, The Snapper. What's really surprising here is that Jon Voight is nearly as good as Gleeson. His Irish accent is outstanding. The General has the same film noir feel of an early Guy Ritchie effort, but it is infinitely more complex due to its characterization. Perhaps the tale is historically inaccurate, yet this has to be one of the more seamlessly entertaining plots I've encountered. All of the criminal capers are quite novel, and there's nothing rehashed about its specifics. Cahill's strategies are rather amazing from his way he cements his alibis to his handling of his crew. The political facets are an added pleasure such as the way in which the IRA hangs like a poisonous cloud over all criminal activities in the Dublin underworld. One gradually begins to comprehend that they, just like the protestant paramilitaries, are not much different from their targets. What really makes this a five star affair is the uniqueness of Cahill which makes his life one that you'll not soon forget."