Actual interview with Martin Cahill in Dublin.
The DVD of Martin Cahill's life Contains both the original theatrical black & white version and the color version.
Martin Cahill was a real person. He didn't drink or smoke, had a loving if unconventional family life with his wife, her sister and their kids, didn't womanize. He also was clever, funny, charismatic, ruthless, and, up until the end, a successful Dublin criminal (corrected from Belfast; thanks, mad saro). He didn't see his crimes as vice, just as an occupation. In addition to hundreds of burglaries and thefts beginning when he was scarcely a teen, he was smart enough to pull off two immense robberies, the first involving a large number of gold bars and jewels, the other of extremely valuable paintings. He wound up on the bad side of the cops, of the IRA, of the Unionists and even of one of his gang members.
John Boorman has written and directed a fascinating life of Martin Cahill, and in Brendan Gleeson he found an actor who has made the role come perfectly to life. Martin Cahill was a shrewd and stubborn man. He grew up in some of the worst of public housing in Dublin. He had no use for the police, except as a butt of his contempt. When civic powers begin to tear down his housing flat, he refused to move. They and the police finally offer him a flat near by. No, he says, I want a house in...and he names one of the better parts of Dublin. "But wouldn't you rather live with your own kind," a pompous city type asks him. "Oh no," Cahill says to the man and to the police standing nearby, "I'd rather live closer to me work." He gets his house, and his standard of living improves markedly. As one critic said, Martin Cahill was Robin Hood but with a twist; he stole from the rich and gave to himself. Once when his wife and sister-in-law convince him to buy a nice house, he learns he can't pay for it with cash; he needs a bank draft. He goes to the bank with 80,000 pounds sterling, gets his bank draft...and as soon as he leaves, has his gang rob the bank and retrieve his 80,000.
He doesn't like to be questioned and he doesn't like betrayal. When he thinks one of his gang has talked about a theft, he personally nails the man's hands to a snooker table. Afterwards, when he decides the guy must be telling the truth, he pulls the nails out, tells him, "You came through with flying colors, Jimmy," and drives him to the emergency room of a hospital where he insists the doctors treat him immediately.
Throughout all of this, he's fascinating. We wind up reluctantly admiring him for facing down the guarda who are after him and who don't have clean hands, either. He's not intimidated by the IRA who tell him clearly they want the take from Cahill's cleverly planned robbery of O'Connor's Wholesale Jewelry warehouse. He faces down with contempt an effort by the Unionists to warn him off their territory. And all the while the guarda have become incensed by Cahill's success and impudence.
The end of the movie is the beginning of the movie. We learn Martin Cahill's fate in the first three minutes. The rest of the movie is the intriguing story of just what made Cahill so interesting and so successful as a criminal.
Brendan Gleeson is an excellent actor. He's a beefy guy and had to wear a lank comb-over throughout. He captures the charisma and the passion behind Martin Cahill. Cahill may have been the product of Belfast's Catholic slums; he may have had only a sketchy education, but Gleeson nails Cahill as a leader of men, a funny, skeptic, crafty and dangerous man. John Voight plays police inspector Ned Kenny, an aging cop who is determined one way or another to bring Cahill down. Cahill's gang are all made up of first-rate Irish actors, including Adrian Dunbar and Sean McGinley. Maria Doyle Kennedy as Cahill's wife and Angeline Ball as her sister, both of whom share Cahill in a loving and affectionate relationship, are first-rate.
John Boorman has created an engrossing portrait of a complex man, and he has produced a movie which is well worth owning and watching. The DVD comes as black-and-white on one side, as it was theatrically shown, and with desaturated color on the other side. Stick with the black-and-white. The DVD transfer is excellent, and the black and white images of Belfast, often damp and dank, add much to the quality of the movie. There are cast filmographies but no other significant extras
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