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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.26.11] United Kingdom movie review thriller drama crime

Year: 2011
Directors: Terry McMahon
Writers: Terry McMahon
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 3 out of 10

Charlie Barnum is a property developer attending a conference at a hotel in Dublin with his wife and their four friends; two other married couples. Charlie is the kind of guy who is perfectly comfortable holding court at a dinner party, or giving opinionated advice to his friends about what they should be doing with their lives, and while he acknowledges a streak of egotism and a tendency to get in peoples faces, he sees these as strong points to his personality. After he hits a working-class girl with his car - and gets away with it - Charlie begins to believe that as a member of the ruling classes he is truly superior to those in the world who have less than him, and he starts to use a deck of cards to test fate, dragging his friends into a twisted, nihilistic game of chance.

Terry McMahon's film debut is a lot of things but I wouldn't call it a success as the experiment has kind of shattered the test tubes here, but I give him kudos for trying. Well, sort of.

To be honest after this film I had to walk across town just to clear my head, it was just that intense an experience. I don't say that as a good thing though; it was also a deeply unpleasant one too, as the film is ugly, noisy, wildly unfocused and pretty offensive on several levels. Charlie's antics are neither funny nor particularly interesting as a character study, and as be bullies his way through the film we begin to wonder why on earth anyone would put up with him, especially his wife who gives the phrase 'long suffering' new meaning. He's basically openly hostile to everyone who crosses his path.

One of the main problems I think is that we start off too soon, with no idea of what Charlie is really like before the hit and run; therefor thrust very unevenly into the world of Charlie Casanova with no bearings, and certainly no sympathy for the character. He gives long rambling voiceover monologues on the nature of morality that call to mind a crazy person on the street we'd cross to avoid, rather than the sophisticated sociopath he's billed as. He goes all Tyler Durden on his friend Kevin and insists the man visit a prostitute to prove his manliness, only to 'seduce' Kevin's wife in a hotel bathroom, slapping her into submission. It's all pretty nasty really. Over the weekend Charlie plays games with all of his friends, variously alienating or impressing them with his madness and violent bouts of anger, until the film culminates with him forcing his friends into acts of violence themselves.

Two scenes work on an individual level, one when Charlie is caught burning his car as evidence by the police and uses his intelligence and skill with words to outwit them, another is the highlight of the film during which Charlie gives a crude comedy routine to an unimpressed audience at a club. These could have been short films themselves which I would have enjoyed. Actor Emmet Scanlan plays Charlie and I think he's got a lot of talent as he makes the character both physically unpleasant and totally soulless, and that takes talent in itself. I just wished McMahon and used Scanlan's skills to craft a better film with a more interesting central character, and crucially something to actually say about life. I gather that Charlie is angry at society and the restrictions it forces on us, but that in itself isn't very interesting and I can think of a dozen films which handle the idea better.

I admire the director for achieving the feat of making a feature film on such a slim budget, but I can't help think that bringing on another writer to tweak the concepts in the script would have saved this project from becoming quite so mean spirited and empty. As it stands it's an affective film, for all the wrong reasons. Around half the audience left the theatre during the screening, and afterwards I felt sad.

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Charlie Fan (11 years ago) Reply

Couldn't disagree more with the above review. I loved Charlie Casanova. Balls out brilliant. Should be compulsive viewing.


ChrisR (11 years ago) Reply

great review of a film that sounds nasty and boring, part of the 'new mysanthropy'. I can really relate to the idea that if we don't start off with some character building and past history, it's just going to be flat. and the neitzchean 'I shouldn't be bound by society's rules' thing is very teenage and sad, unless he's willing to grow his own food and weave his own clothes.


mike (11 years ago) Reply

I loved it,not perfect but so what?

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