Best known for Deliverance
(1972), John Boorman produced what is arguably his greatest film with Point Blank
(1967). In that ambiguous gangster flick, set in a pastel L.A. wasteland, Lee Marvin may or may not be a walking dead man, animated by the desire to avenge his fatal betrayal by the woman he loved and his best friend. Many of Boorman's films take the form of quests, fuelled by some dream of utopia; on some level, Point Blank
is the tragedy of a just man, appalled and ultimately defeated by the complexity of his world's corruption. The General
begins with the death of Martin Cahill--celebrated Dublin gangster who stole millions during the 1980s--then literally reverses the approach and assault of his IRA assassin, flashing back in time, back through Cahill's colorful, criminal quest for his kind of ideal community. Boorman says his Cahill is a throwback to those Celtic chieftains of old who ruled by thievery and violence; as an anachronism, this charming, brutal bear of a man (perfectly incarnated by Brendan Gleeson) is undeniably reprehensible, but he stands in deliberate contrast to the institutionalised hypocrisy and corruption of church, state, and IRA alike. Brazenly hanging out in police HQ to establish an alibi; manoeuvring gracefully through perfectly choreographed heists; dispensing affection to his wife, and her sister; nailing the hands of a suspected cheat to a pool table; handing out food to women whose husbands are out of work--Gleeson's bluff, often comic gangster is always bigger than life, an eruption of unsocialized energy through the layers-deep sediment of socially acceptable sin. (In real life as in the film, Cahill always hid his face under a sweatshirt hood, or behind his spread fingers--he looks like some mischievous, giant-child.) Shot by the great Seamus Deasey in colour, then transferred to black-and-white stock, The General
is visually voluptuous, the anatomy of a charismatic monster's soul expressed in lustrous light, silken shades of gray, and ebony shadows.-- Kathleen Murphy
Irish gangster Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) becomes known as 'The General' after co-ordinating a series of armed robberies in Dublin during the 1980s. Hailed in some quarters as a folk-hero for his defiance against the authorities, he pulls one job too many when he steals paintings belonging to the Beit collection. With the police closing in, Cahill's problems are multiplied by the increasing interest of the IRA in his activities.