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thegeneral.gif (12316 bytes)

The General

Starring Brendan Gleeson and Jon Voight
Written and Directed by John Boorman
Website: www.spe.sony.com/classics/general/

IN SHORT: For a terrorist, not such a bad guy. . . [129 Minutes, Rated R]

You'll forgive Cranky if he admits that he saw The General in a private screening two months back. Knowing that it would hit in the midst of the year end Oscar® rush, I wanted to see this early, 'cuz director John Boorman is one of my personal favorite filmmakers. If you haven't seen great flicks like Deliverance or Excalibur or Hope , go out and rent 'em.

Dublin is the setting for Boorman's The General, a surprisingly funny and warm-hearted portrayal of a real life despicable character, an Irish gangster, who always managed to stay physically out of the public eye, even though the press and the cops were all over him.

As a youngster, Martin Cahill (Eamon Owens) would steal creamcakes for his girlfriend, sacks of potatoes and packs of cigarettes for his family and his mom. He promised Frances, his girl, that he'd never be caught but, of course, he was.

Twenty or thirty years on the grown up Martin (Brendan Gleeson) and Frances (Maria Doyle Kennedy) have four children and live on public assistance in the Irish equivalent of the ghetto where they grew up. Martin still works "at night," stealing watches off sleeping women's arms and toys from the children of the rich. He's a thief and he's very good at it.

Cahill and his Hollyfield Boys (after the slum they grew up in) know their place. They are the dregs of the dregs, and they hang tight. Their nemesis, specifically Martin's opposite number, is a police Inspector Ned Kenny (Jon Voight) who, it is hinted, has known Martin from boyhood on up.

Don't get me wrong, Cahill would just as soon blow out your kneeecaps with his pistol if you ever crossed him, but he is "blessed" with a great gift for being able to manipulate the media, and the ghetto mentality of Us against Them as his sole protection against all the non-dregs of society. The General isn't a Robin Hood story, it's more an example of the Peter Principle. Martin has found his way to the top of his particular food chain. Cahill knows how to manipulate the system, turn police rules against the uniforms, and pull off heists so major that even the IRA walked away from them. The terrorists, of course, are envious once Cahill's gang pulls 'em off, which leads to a pair of very interesting scenes.

The language is crude, but it is funny. Voight delivers his best performance in, like, forever. Brendan Gleeson's Martin plays with the minds of his henchmen and enemies alike, and does it with such intelligence and style that you wonder what the character could have done if, as Voight's character insists, he had gotten a real job. Ace jobbers all around despite a couple of thick Irish accents.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The General, he would have paid...


Solid story. Solid acting. Solid movie. Funny and rude and violent, The General is a small enough story that could well be swamped by the end of the year rush. Cranky liked it then, and he liked it just as much after a refresher viewing in the midst of the wannabe frenzy. Highly Recommended.

For Cranky Critic StarTalk with star Jon Voight, click here.

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is Copyright © 1995  -  2015   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.