The General

Year: 1926
Country: Ireland, USA
Running time: 130 mins
Director/Producer/Screenplay: John Boorman
Production co: Merlin Films/J&M Entertainment
Photography: Seamus Deasy
Editor: Ron Davis
Production designer: Derek Wallace
Music: Richie Buckley
Costumer designer: Maeve Paterson

Martin Cahill: Brendan Gleeson
Inspector Ned Kenny: Jon Voight
Noel Curley: Adrian Dunbar
Gary: Sean McGinley
Frances: Maria Doyle Kennedy
Tina: Angeline Ball
Young Martin Cahill: Eamonn Owens
The General, John Boorman’s brilliant and engulfing movie catapults us into a one-man crime wave. Brendan Gleeson enacts real-life Dublin criminal chieftain Martin Cahill with a belly-hanging-out buffoonery that is just as magnetic as Jimmy Cagney’s feral grace. Covering his face with this hand to avoid detection, Gleeson’s Cahill plays peekaboo with the law. But the audience sees everything, from his rock-hard street smarts to his twin Achilles’ heels of paranoia and nostalgia.

The movie is basically a turbulent flashback, beginning and ending with Cahill’s death. His life rushes before his inner eye in the split second before the IRA guns him down in his car. This combination godfather, jester, and thug has become the far too public enemy of all Dublin authorities, rebels included. Cahill’s worldview is elemental: “It’s Us against Them”. Us is the kind of folk who live in housing projects, and Them is everybody else. It’s a vision beneath or beyond politics.

This movie is so vivid and engrossing because Boorman alternately honors and debunks Cahill’s perspective. He sustains his complex take on Cahill with the help of a supporting cast that to the man (and woman) can go one-on-one with Gleeson. They include Sean McGinley, Jon Voight, Adrian Dunbar, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Angeline Ball. Seamus Deasy did the subtly changeable, searingly expressive cinematography. — Michael Sragow, San Francisco Weekly, 21/4/99

Boorman has always been fascinated by myth and legend, and at one time, he might have celebrated Cahill simply as another of his rebellious nonconformists, a man unwaveringly loyal to a dying way of life, resisting the encroachments of the soulless modern world. Instead, he’s come up with a portrait of Cahill that’s much darker — one that’s restless, searching. Brilliantly portrayed by Brendan Gleeson, this Cahill (for whom Gleeson is a dead ringer) is a disruptive force sprung full-blown from the collective Irish id. A traditionalist with an utter contempt for authority, Cahill is a contradiction that adds up — Charles Taylor,, 18/12/98