The General

Director/Writer: John Boorman
Sony Pictures Classics; R; 129 minutes
Cast: Adrian Dunbar, Brendan Gleeson, and Jon Voight

Within film criticism it has become common to label every brainless comedy/action movie as a morality tale simply because it features a vaguely upright lead character who triumphs in the end. This disturbing trend effaces the churlishness of lowbrow frat-flicks (such as Varsity Blues) as if plot structure rather than the endless barrage of coarse, demeaning humor determined their moral content On the other end of the spectrum, The General portrays an amoral, anarchic Irish criminal with a respectable even-handedness absent in most morality tales. Real-life Martin Cahill was assassinated by the IRA (whom he despised along with all other authoritarian outcroppings), and that is where this well-constructed film begins. The colorful life of this rogue and charmer is chronicled with the nuance any human portrait requires. Director John Boorman also manages to bring a picture of Irish class politics into focus. Luscious black-and-white film completes the attentive elegance of this amorality tale.