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I Went Down

Review: 'I Went Down' lands with a thud

Web posted on: Tuesday, July 07, 1998 4:43:18 PM

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- For a while there, I was really pulling for Irish director Paddy Breathnach's new movie "I Went Down," a black comedy of criminal recklessness in which two unlikely partners bond while trying to decide whether they should serve a kidnapped prisoner up for almost certain death.

It's too bad that the story's returns were so minimal, though. I eventually got tired of working so hard, and my enthusiasm turned to something near boredom. My American ears' inability to decipher huge chunks of the brogue-tinged dialogue probably didn't help much, either.

Peter McDonald stars as Git, a just-released convict who gets involved with a vicious mob boss (Tony Doyle) in an attempt to rescue his buddy from an unfortunate loan shark situation. Git is teamed up with a thick-necked, sideburned monster named Bunny (Brendan Gleeson), the type of guy who can hog-tie a clerk and rob a convenience store for no apparent reason, then feel bad when he stops to think about it 10 minutes later. Git is afraid of what Bunny may get him into, and it's not long before he's rewarded for his apprehension.

Clip: "The Getaway"
1.7Mb QuickTime movie

Entire theatrical trailer
3.2Mb QuickTime movie

Syrupy sweet, with lengthy dry patches

The two are supposed to track down and secure the presence of a shyster named Frank (Peter Caffrey.) They don't know what Frank has done, but the boss sure doesn't seem to like him very much, and they're fairly convinced that he's going to be executed once they deliver him. It takes quite a while to find him, but when they do, Frank turns out to be a talkative semi-con man with a syrupy sweet heart. The three men grudgingly come to terms with each other, with Git and Bunny becoming very odd best friends.

This is all presented in a manner that suggests the earlier films of Bill Forsythe, something on the order of "That Sinking Feeling," but with far fewer laughs and several lengthy dry patches. It's all character-oriented, a type of film that's more likely to appeal to me than, say, a murder mystery, but the characters just aren't very interesting.

I feel bad to always point out the difficulty understanding Irish-accented dialogue (my last victimization coming at the hands of "The Butcher Boy"), but it's a simple fact that many of the jokes, and even plot points, don't make any impact at all due to the garbled nature of their presentation.

At one point, Bunny relates an important anecdote about a homosexual relationship that he had while in prison (hipsters should take note of the movie's somewhat inept title), but I didn't really pick up on it until very near the end of the movie, and my girlfriend, who saw it with me, didn't catch it at all.

I'm not trying to play the Ugly American; I know that folks overseas may get far more out of the picture than I did. But it only seems fair to point out that you may have some trouble following it. When the heart of the movie is dialogue-based, this is a huge sticking point.

Amusing, touching performances

The performances are nice, though. McDonald's slowly-growing apprehension around Bunny is quite amusing, and so are a couple of sight gags that he pulls off when their car breaks down in the beautiful, rainy countryside.

Gleeson's Bunny is also fun, and unexpectedly touching, when he attempts to reconcile with his estranged wife from outside of their house. He (and we) can see her feet sticking out from a hiding place as he begs her to let him in. She refuses to budge and he has to move on.

And Caffrey (whose character turns out to be lot more criminally proficient than we're led to believe) is enjoyable enough, but he shows up rather late in the story, and I was already getting fairly exasperated with not knowing what the hell was really going on.

Not bad, but not all that good, either, if I can rely on what I came to know of the plot. At least "The Harder They Come" (a great reggae movie that's also delivered in near-unintelligible, slang-filled English) has subtitles.

"I Went Down" is pretty tough, but also oddly gentle at the same time. No nudity, but lots of naughty words. A little bit of violence. Rated R. 107 minutes. The first 30 minutes are easily the best.

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