Intermission (18)

Colin Farrell’s reputation as a bad boy will climb several notches after the blistering one-two delivery of Intermission’s opening sequence in which a shop assistant is charmed and then floored by Farrell’s two-fisted thug.

None of the characters are particularly likeable in John Crowley’s bitter and twisted urban love story, but Farrell’s glowering, tattooed Lehiff stands out as a malevolent force, matched only by Colm Meaney’s equally brutal detective.

Set in Dublin and centring on a disparate group of folk, Intermission considers the lives and loves of ordinary people – supermarket shelf-stacker, bus driver, bank manager – while, running parallel, a cop aims to clean up the city’s mean streets while a TV crew films a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Similar in style to both Paddy Breathnach’s I Went Down and David Kane’s This Year’s Love, but darker, edgier and nastier than both, Intermission offers nothing new save for yet another powerhouse performance from Farrell and Meaney’s attempt to become the Irish equivalent of Gene Hackman.

“Hate your opponent. That’s a philosophy I still follow,” Meaney tells the hapless television journalist following in his bloody wake. Meanwhile Farrell, Cillian (28 Days Later) Murphy and Brian F. O’Byrne as a lugubrious bus driver plan a robbery using the bank manager’s girlfriend as a hostage.

Wickedly funny and packed with surprises, Intermission is, nevertheless, a blatant copy of many previous films where the threads of the plot weave in and out of a deliberately fragmented plot that, eventually, comes together again.

One sequence sees John (Murphy) and sex-starved Oscar (David Wilmot) visiting a nightclub on the pretext of locating a desperate older woman. One spies John, fixes him with a wavering stare and purrs “I’m sporty”. Of course, it all goes up in flames.

Then there’s the running gag involving brown sauce. Having raided a store and emerged with only a crate of the brown stuff, John and his pals proceed to add it to every meal: cups of tea, cornflakes…

Loaded with familiar faces from Irish and Scottish cinema, Intermission is deliciously overloaded with character and talent. Certainly in Colm Meaney it delivers a magnificently nuanced performance of ego and arrogance, while Farrell, who pops up only intermittently, is powerful, mad-eyed and dangerous as an unstoppable force of nature.

But don’t expect a happy ending. While Crowley, in his film debut, ties up the loose ends he doesn’t flinch from his purpose: raising the eyebrows skyward. He succeeds almost every time. Certainly there’s as much going on here as in Love Actually – except this one relishes its lack of warmth.

Star rating: ***

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