Ordinary Decent Criminal

Ordinary Decent Criminal


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If this wasn't based on fact, no one would believe the sight of it. Michael Lynch (Kevin Spacey) moves around Dublin as if he owns the place, robbing wherever he goes.

Unlike your conventonal thief, he doesn't spend months on planning. He walks into a bank, assuming that the sight of a gun will frighten people enough to keep them quiet, while his boys complete their business. The similarity between Thaddeus O'Sullivan's film and John Boorman's The General, which chronicled the exploits of the cop-taunting, eccentric Martin Cahill, is too close to question. "We decided to take some parts of Cahill's life and some parts of other Irish gangsters' lives and incorporate everything into a fabric of fiction," says producer, Jonathan Cavendish.

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Cahill's criminal history was so audacious that if it hadn't happened, who would credit it? By adding embellishments, writer Gerry Stembridge only makes an incredible story more so. If anyone thinks that a large canvas in a heavy gilt frame - in this case, a priceless Caravaggio - can be plucked off the wall of a national gallery, with a number of other paintings, in the middle of the day, and simply carried out of the front door into the street, they must be joking.

Spacey handles the accent better than the body language. American actors have a confidence that gives their relationship with the camera a special intimacy. Spacey turns Lynch into a supercrook. There is no blarney in the man, no humour.

At least, Boorman used Irish actors. Here, you have Americans (Spacey and Linda Fiorentino, as Mrs L), Scots (the Glasgow hard core, Peter Mullan and David Hayman, as well as Patrick Malahide, as a top cop) and English (Helen Baxendale, as Lynch's sister- in-law/lover, and Stephen Dillane, as his nemesis), which only reinforces the suspicion that Ordinary Decent Criminal is little more than a commercial venture.

The ease at which Lynch mocks the local police becomes disconcerting, as does the contemporary soundtrack, destined for a record store near you. Either the law is an ass, or this gunman is a hero. O'Sullivan thinks both is true.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Kevin Spacey is the creme de la crime in Dublin.
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Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan

Writer: Gerry Stembridge

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Linda Fiorentino, Peter Mullan, Stephen Dillane, Helen Baxendale, David Hayman

Year: 1999

Runtime: 159 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland


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The General