Monday, December 19, 2011


2007, Ireland/UK, directed by Tom Collins

Although the script is frustratingly stagy at times--several lines repeated as catchphrases fall flat onscreen though they may have had power on the stage--Kings is generally an effective examination of Irishmen in London, their best years long behind them and their dreams either reduced in scope or soused in drink. The notion of Irish characters revealing home truths over a bottle of whiskey is hardly the most original of starting points, but I've met men like this, or on their way to being like this, and the film captures their bullshit and bluster in ways that are recognizably close to the bone.

The film, shot largely in Irish, builds up to a lengthy sequence in the back of a bar which is most obviously drawn from the original play, and yet the careful lighting and smoky haze paradoxically lend the extended sequence a soddenly realistic air, with the men downing one drink after another while flaying each other in somewhat predictable fashion. While their flaws are given full rein in that sequence, the characterizations are sufficiently nuanced that it's possible to understand what bound the men together originally, and there's an unsentimentality to both the characters and the outcome that's refreshing. Indeed, it's one more example of the clear-eyed take of Irish filmmakers on Ireland's economic woes--the Celtic Tiger is an insistent background presence here, held up as a beacon of misplaced hope--that creates a fascinating counter-narrative to the political and social fantasy that overcame the country for a decade or more.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States