Tag Archives: Colm Meaney

Away with the Fairies


by Hope Madden

There’s never a bad time for an Irish horror movie. I guess it’s lucky that Grabbers director Jon Wright is back with the new tale of bloodthirsty little people, Unwelcome. Wright’s yarn follows Londoners Maya (Hannah John-Kamen, Ant-Man and the Wasp) and Jamie (Douglas Booth, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). We meet as the two 1) confirm they are pregnant, and 2) barely survive a brutal break in.

Act 1 is grim, humorless and traumatizing, capitalizing on the very Brit-horror anxiety around roving young thugs and the pointless violence they will do. Act 2 ushers us into the lush, quaint Irish countryside where Jamie and Maya relocate, thanks to a timely inheritance. Jamie’s aunt passed on more than a cottage, though. There are rules.

But Maya doesn’t take the rules very seriously. And besides, she’s due any minute, there’s a hole in her roof, the clan of handymen they hired to fix it is somewhat terrifying, and she and Jamie are still suffering from the trauma of the break in back in London. So, yes, she forgot to leave the raw meat out on the back fence for the “red caps” roaming the forest beyond.

What could go wrong?

Let’s start with what goes right. Wright’s pivot to very Irish horror, with its humor, color and creatures of old creates a fascinating shift from the gritty British tone. The Whelan family (Colm Meaney, Kristian Nairn, Chris Walley and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), hired to patch and repair the cottage, deliver uncomfortable tension from their introduction. Set design is gorgeous and the creatures are pretty cool.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Maya and Jamie make ridiculous decisions, many of them running counter to the characters’ own (sometimes verbalized) natures. The film doesn’t lean into humor nearly enough, and the conclusion leaves much to be desired.

Irish horror so often incorporates folktales of malevolent tricksters. You Are Not My Mother  (2021), The Hallow (2015), and The Hole in the Ground (2019) all tread similarly magical ground and all do a better job of it. Unwelcome can’t begin to stand up to comparisons to Wright’s creature feature Grabbers –the best Irish horror film you could hope for.

It’s not without its charm. Meaney and his crew turn in excellent performances and generate some honest laughs. But the film itself is a mess.

Altar Noise


by George Wolf

These pandemic times have given us plenty of films with small casts and minimal settings. But add in the overly talky nature of Confession, and you’ve got a film that must have been inspired by a play, right?

Actually, no, which makes its construction that much more curious.

Writer/director David Beton’s thriller plays out in real time, starting when the bleeding, gun toting Victor Strong (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer) stumbles into Father Peter’s (Colm Meaney) church with some sins to absolve.

They talk, and we start to learn a little about what brought Victor to this desperate moment. His wife was murdered years earlier and now, before Victor’s own imminent death, he needs his 18 year-old daughter to be set free with the truth of his past.

But Victor is a hunted man, and soon Willow (Clare-Hope Ashitey from Children of Men) joins the congregation with her gun, her badge, and a very different side of the story.

So far, so pretty good, as Beton’s pace makes time feel precious and the performances set effective hooks for tension and mystery. But once things start unraveling…things start unraveling.

You’ve got two versions of the truth to sort out, plus some secrets that Father Pete’s been keeping. But instead of simple flashbacks or a more ambitious Roshomon-style of reveal, Beton is content to just tell us things.

While that approach can work (see last year’s Mass), it undercuts the very nature of a visual medium. And when some of the excessive dialog is both unlikely and unnecessary (like someone saying “Come on, come on!” into a ringing phone even though they’re hiding), it chips away at the strength of your coming payoff.

Beton eventually does add a couple new faces and a weak flash of action at the finale, but by then the tension built early on has been wasted. Much like a troubled mark facing dwindling options and a ticking clock, Confession just ends up saying too much.

Strangers on a Plane

The Last Right

by Hope Madden

A few months back, Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt stupefied us all (well, the dozen or so of us who saw Wild Mountain Thyme) with an Irish romance about as authentic as a Shamrock Shake. Writer/director Aoife Crehan’s The Last Right takes us back to the Emerald Isle to see if there’s any romance or magic left.

Oh, there is? Well, fine then.

Dutch actor Michiel Huisman plays Daniel Murphy, Irishman. Or American. Well, that’s fuzzy, but he’s certainly not Dutch, although his accent is tough to pinpoint. Daniel’s been called back from Boston to County Cork for his ma’s funeral, and to look in on his younger brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley, Get Duked!)

And old man – also named Murphy – dies on the airplane and authorities believe Daniel is his next of kin. They want him to deliver the remains to a church on the northern tip of Ireland, but that’s not his responsibility plus he has all this work to do and he can’t wait to get back to Beantown where his fancy lawyer job waits for him.

But Louis wants to go, and Louis has autism, which is where the film really gets a bit off the rails.

Crehan nods to Barry Levinson’s Rain Man early into the cross-country drive between two brothers with a large age gap, a long way to go and a lot to learn. Along for the ride is mortuary assistant Mary (Naimh Algar) and more contrivances than you can shake a shillelagh at.

Performances are solid. Algar brings a fiery spirit to the roadtrip experience, and Crehan fills small roles with the venerable talents of Brian Cox, Colm Meaney and Jim Norton. Plus the scenery is gorgeous.

There is a perfectly middle-of-the-road romantic dramedy here somewhere. You may enjoy it, assuming you can get past the tangle of convenient plot twists and you don’t wince at the device of an autistic character (played by an actor who is not on the spectrum, although Bottomley delivers a layered and respectful performance) teaching the real lessons.

Shipping Up to Sligo


by Matt Weiner

There was a time in the late 90s when you couldn’t go six months without a quippy crime comedy that was obviously pitched as “Pulp Fiction, but this time you get to be the studio making a boatload of money.” Some of these, like Doug Liman’s Go, were quite good. Others, like The Boondock Saints, belong in the Hague. Most of them, though, were simply reliable—reliably watchable, and equally forgettable.

Thankfully, the new action comedy Pixie takes as many cues from its distinct local sensibilities as it does from forebears like Tarantino and especially Guy Ritchie, the capo di tutti capi of British gangster cinema.

It all starts, naturally, with a drug deal gone bad—and things just get worse from there. Pixie has all the convenient plot twists and beyond belief interconnectedness you’d expect in this sort of crime thriller. But it also has heart, anchored by Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) as the title moll.

A nonstop series of crosses, double crosses and double-double crosses take Pixie and her inept partners in crime on a scenic if slightly murderous tour through the West of Ireland as they attempt to make their big score without getting snared by misfit hitmen, killer priests and country gangsters hot on their heels. This includes Pixie’s own family (with the great Colm Meaney as patriarch, who seems to be thoroughly enjoying this “teddy bear who might also kill you” stage of his career).

For all the contrivances of the genre, director Barnaby Thompson, working off a script by his son Preston Thompson, imbues the film with an archness that keeps the action entertaining even at its most improbable. So much of this falls to Cooke, who switches effortlessly from femme fatale to agent of pure chaos, a beguiling anti-heroine who has figured out how to entice others to clean up the carnage she leaves in her wake.

And if the bawdy jokes, nun-related gunplay and jaw-dropping vistas still aren’t enough, perhaps Alec Baldwin chewing through his scenes and an Irish accent with equal aplomb will seal the deal.