Gangster dramedy swears by standard road trip formula
The Irish thugs in “Perrier’s Bounty’’ are movie thugs. In one of the first scenes, Michael (Cillian Murphy) awakes to the sight of two men seated before him. They threaten him in a well-timed back and forth, hurling the occasional pistachio at his head. We don’t see them enter his grubby bedroom. We see them sit in perfect arrangement, with their banter and peculiar interest in nuts. They’ve been styled.
As an introduction, it’s airless and tired. Is Michael that sound a sleeper? Have these two shaken down so many men for money that they have a routine? Perhaps. But I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe most of this movie, which Mark O’Rowe wrote and Ian Fitzgibbon directed. Michael owes 1,000 euros (about $1,250) to the local gangster, a gentleman named Perrier (Brendan Gleeson), and has one evening to return it.
The movie could have had more fun or been more serious, from a class standpoint, about the relatively small sum. But the money is an afterthought for the mix of sentiment, hilarity, and violence being attempted here. Michael’s estranged father (Jim Broadbent) appears not long after Perrier’s goons leave. He’s dying and wants to patch up their relationship. Only in a lazy movie does he wind up on the run with his son and his son’s lovelorn neighbor, Bren (Jodie Whittaker), who gets in on the action after she shoots one of the henchmen with the gun that she happens to have found and stolen from Michael’s apartment.
Their road trip leaves plenty of time for bickering and heart-to-heart talks. If Perrier’s such a baddie, surely he’ll be trying to hunt them down and kill them. Yet, there always seems to be a moment for Michael to remind the exasperatingly needy Bren that her boyfriend doesn’t love her. He may not, but his random appearance during one climactic scene turns his automobile into a convenient getaway car.
So many times “Perrier’s Bounty’’ could have explored its quirkier impulses. Those two guys who hurl pistachios at Michael could have an entire comedy built around the secret nature of their relationship. Instead, the movie uses them as a punch line for Perrier’s open-mindedness.
I blame “Sexy Beast,’’ which invented exciting new avenues for the gangster film — suspenseful, nightmarish, funny. Then there’s Guy Ritchie, whose empty underworld cartoons have made everyone feel like it’s OK to go for expletives and style. At least with him, the crime and capering are illogical enough for his eye to serve as a vacation from the narrative headaches.
O’Rowe also wrote 2003’s “Intermission,’’ another dramedy with equally unprintable dialogue. That film had real organic surprise — actors taking leaps with language and how to wring from it as much filth as possible. “Perrier’s Bounty’’ is all stock material, full of characters that deserve more than the cliched shootouts and showdowns that befall them. Even the movie’s most natural impulses seem to come from a can.