Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1998: Brendan Gleeson in The General

Brendan Gleeson did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Martin Cahill the titular character in The General.

The General is an enjoyable enough film about the exploits of a most unusual Irish crime boss.

Brendan Gleeson plays Martin Cahill, in his most prominent leading performance before his work with the McDonagh brothers, and from the get go Gleeson benefits from having a fairly close physical resemblance to the real Cahill. The reality of Cahill though doesn't come too deeply into the film itself which takes the approach of making him somewhat of a folk hero of sorts, since in reality it appears Cahill was an even more devious sort than the film presents him to be. Gleeson though is terrific in creating the "heroic" version of Cahill that we meet early in the film as he does things his own way, and that's too an even more absurd extent than most individualists. Cahill is not a usual crime boss, first of all since he focuses almost exclusively on robberies, but also takes rather absurd and flamboyant method to crimes. Cahill almost doesn't hide his crimes to the police instead he carefully hides any possible evidence that could tie them to him.

Gleeson is perfect for the role, and that's not just because of his physical likeness either. Gleeson is very interesting in the way he can have quite the commanding presence while bringing such a relaxed charm in his manner. That's certainly his approach for Cahill which is an effective one to be sure. Gleeson's charm as well makes Cahill quite the likable character here despite the fact that he's a criminal who only commits crimes for personal benefits, and is actually not at all opposed to violent crimes. Gleeson though portrays such a joy in Cahill whenever he commits a crime in his very peculiar and strange ways, such as one where he deposits money at bank then hangs out at the police station for alibi while his own men steal the same exact money right back from the bank, that it's difficult to not kinda have the fun right along with him. Although Cahill is technically quite smug and overconfident in terms of his actions, Gleeson's performance is able to smooth over all of this due to just how accessible Gleeson makes Cahill.

Cahill is a weird crime boss, not only because he stays in plain sight, other than his habit of always covering his face in public, but also because of his fairly informal way of dealing with his men. Gleeson is quite interesting as he makes Cahill odd way of things rather believable because of his performance. There is a great charisma about Gleeson making it easy to see how Cahill is so easily in charge of such a large group even though the structures involving his game are pretty thin. Gleeson has that command even though there is such an ease in his performance at the same time. Of course Cahill on occasion does dish out some punishment, such as when he crucifies a guy to a pool table to ensure he's telling the truth. Gleeson is appropriately cruel in the scene effectively revealing the darker edge to Cahill. Gleeson manages to bounce back from this naturally though when Cahill takes the same man to the hospital himself to ensure that the man recovers from his wounds.

Everything is not fun and games for Cahill because despite his considerable success with his absurd crimes Cahill can't keep up the streak. One of the reasons Cahill can't keep the streak going is because of the streak makes it so the cops take him so seriously that they tail him constantly with police always watching his house. Gleeson is terrific in carrying himself in general with that rebellious attitude and confidence of Cahill and then proceeding to wear it away as his life basically starts to become to much for him. There are the occasional moments where something goes wrong Cahill and Gleeson is great by showing Cahill lose his resolve for a brief instance. In the instance Gleeson suggests the real vulnerability of the man in certain circumstances such as when he has to get extremely abrupt with the I.R.A. since the organization wants in on Cahill's earnings. Gleeson handles these well by showing Cahill's unable to keep his personal going under greater pressure.

Throughout the third act of the film one things after another goes wrong for Cahill as he makes some poor decisions, his underlings begin to threaten his freedom, he develops diabetes, and of course the police never stop hounding him. Gleeson is very good here as he portrays Cahill keeping his brave face of joking and messing with the police but with moments of losing his cool which become more and more intense. Soon though it becomes clear that everything is becoming to much and Gleeson is most moving when he presents Cahill even losing his ability to always smile to the police. One of his best scenes is when Gleeson shows Cahill losing almost all his reserve and Gleeson portrays it as Cahill completely breaking down but constantly trying to keep himself together though he simply is not able to. Gleeson gives a great portrait of Cahill's emotional rise and fall as he shows that he is basically finished mentally even before he receives his fatal wounds from the I.R.A.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great performance, I really want to see it.

JackiBoyz said...

Gleeson looks awfully young here, Louis what are your thoughts and rating on Jon Voights performance?

Daniel, what would your thoughts be on the 5 Hong Kong best actor nominees for 2009?
Wang Xueqi - Bodyguards and Assassins
Simon Yam - Night And Fog
Aaron Kwok - Murderer
Simon Yam - Echoes Of The Rainbow
Lau Ching Wan - Overheard

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Unrelated, but what's the likelihood of Ricardo Montalban getting reviewed for Wrath of Khan?

luke higham said...

Louis: Have you decided on what year/decade you'll be working on after '98.

RatedRStar said...


Xueqi (4) I dont entirely agree with his placement but he gives good work nonetheless, he brings a great presence being a rather wise figure amidst all the chaos, his best scene is probably when the leader is killed allowing his calm facade to disappear and make him break down.

Yam in Night (2) A very overdone performance from Simon Yam, in a true story like this Yam needed to be much more 3 dimensional and not just play his character as a creep because it is supposed to be a shock when he murders his wife but since Yam was completely one note creepy beforehand it kills the films suspense stone dead.

Kwok (1) Hilariously bad, Kwok massively massively overacts every emotion so that its like every line is shouted out, the film is terrible, Kwok is like superacting lol since he is constantly doing hiliarious glances, shouting and waving his arms in the air like an air traffic controller.

Yam in Echoes (3) This film is pure awards bait, Yam is fine enough in the film and has a somewhat decent chemistry with Sandra Ng, but his characteristion is done by the film rather than Yam, it feels like a career award for Yam.

Lau Ching Wan (4.5) Overheard is a fairly effective thriller that has a few problems, only two of the actors give great performances, Lau being one of them and is excellent in portraying his guilty consience as he keeps calm and uses a facade to paper over it but when trouble starts happening such as his affair with his bosses wife, or when people are after him he impresses very well.

Michael McCarthy said...

Glad to see my request was well-received :) I personally thought Jon Voight was incredibly lacking here, but it was mostly the fault of miscasting.

Anonymous said...

What are everybody's ratings and thoughts on Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars? I didn't like the movie too much but she was great for me, she deserved her Best Actress prize at Cannes.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I quite loved the film actually though I am definitely in the minority lol

Moore: 5 (she was amazing. Sultry and sexy, damaged and deranged, and even quite funny--best performance of the year so far, IMO. Another reason why Moore is one of my favourite actresses)

Wasikowska: 4.5 (very, very close to a 5. Such an underrated talent, she was brilliant in Stoker as well)

Cusack: 2.5 (the weak link, it would have been interesting to see an actor like Clive Owen in this role, but he was fine enough I suppose)

Pattinson: 3 (Pretty thankless role but he carries it with considerable charm)

Williams: 4 (in a way, quite a limited role, but she verges on the amazing within these limits)

Gadon: 3 (I always like Gadon, and she is perfectly cast here)

Bird:4 (what could have been a pretty grating role is handled very well. He never overplays the character's troubles and gives a very visceral and surprisingly moving portrayal of a troubled young man)

Carrie Fisher as Carrie Fisher was good, naturally.

Anonymous said...

Oh well, I didn't hate the movie and I thought it was quite good, the screenplay had some serious problema to me though. My ratings and thoughts on the cast:
Moore - 4.5(I actually think she's supporting and not leading. Anyway, she's rather terrific in being so despicable yet heartbreaking at the same time, and I liked how she added some dark humor to the proceeding)
Wasikowska - 3.5(I thought that she was the true lead of the movie, if there was one. Anyway, she was good in the role although she probably is the one who suffers the most from the screenplay. I thought she was also good in Stoker, but I didn't love her in that movie either)
Cusack - 2(I didn't like him at all, a very bland and uninteresting performance that wastes a potentially good role)
Pattinson - 2.5 (Close to a 3, actually. He was perfectly fine with what he had, but there was far too little to work with. I wish the screenplay wouldn't have been so shallow regarding his character)
Williams - 3(She's fine both as the controlling, cold figure she's in the beginning and as the damaged, heart-broken mother she's in the second half, but she was still too limited and I don't think that the two sides of her performance connect all that well)
Bird - 3(Pretty good performance that I liked well enough, but just well enough. He is fine and he has a good chemistry with Wasikowksa, but I hardly loved him)

Louis Morgan said...


Voight - 3.5(Before watching the film for the first time I actually expected the inspector to have much larger role than he does, especially since Voight is the only name (at the time) in the film. I actually found Voight's performance to be completely fine, I don't think he needed to be in the role, but I certainly did not find his presence distracting. He does a decent enough job with accent, and I think he portrays the right annoyed exasperation toward Cahill. I do think he's rather good in the scene where the Inspector and Cahill have a brief moment of understanding near the end of the film)


He's certainly a possibility.

Luke: Not sure yet.