Because celebrities eat cake too…
Singled out for special honours today though is Brendan Gleeson (1955-). Dishevelled, rotund, foul-mouthed but utterly charming, Gleeson has been a favourite of mine since his incredible performance in John Boorman’s The General (1998). Starring as thief Martin Cahill (who was also portrayed as Michael Lynch by Kevin Spacey – with maybe the worst Irish accent captured on film – in 2000’s abysmal Ordinary Decent Criminal) he managed to make a lovable rogue out of a man who steals, lies, nails his cohorts to a snooker table and maintains a loving, open relationship with a pair of sisters.
Though we recognise that the real man may have been less pleasant to be around, we forgive him his bastardry, so powerful is Gleeson’s charisma. A few lead roles followed but for most part, he’s been a supporting player; bit parts have followed for directors as diverse as Paul Greengrass (Green Zone), Scorsese (Gangs of New York), Ridley Scott (Kingdom of Heaven) and Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) though it’s as Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter series that he’ll be best known to the youngsters.
In 2008 he co-starred alongside Colin Farrell in Martin McDonough’s pitch-black comedy In Bruges. As aging hitman Ken, sent with his associate Ray (Farrell) to hide out in Bruges after a botched hit, Gleeson found another classic character; experienced, a little weary, but still inquisitive, still hopeful that life might show him some small wonder, he tries to make the best of a bad situation. However, while Ray is having a crisis about the things he has done, Ken has reached an understanding of his place in the world and made peace with the fact that he is (near enough) a good man that just does bad things for a living.
A film so quotable it hurts, In Bruges is a favourite here at We Love Movies and you’re urged to give it a go if you haven’t already. Also well worth checking out is McDonough and Gleeson’s previous collaboration, the Oscar winning short film Six Shooter (2004). As funny as In Bruges – but maybe even darker – it sees Gleeson stuck on a train with a young troublemaker and what starts out mischievous ends up messy.
Last year’s The Guard (for In Bruges director Mc Donough’s brother, John Michael) saw Gleeson at his best. Playing small town cop Gerry Boyle, Gleeson is allowed to really let fly with his mixture of little boy charm and bad behaviour, whether it be stealing drugs from the body of a car crash victim, hiring prostitutes two at time for his day off or just drinking and drugging while on duty. Seemingly indifferent to the huge delivery of cocaine being smuggled into his port, much to the frustration of the FBI agent sent to run the operation (the always excellent Don Cheadle as Agent Wendell Pierce) he eventually ends up on the smugglers bad side when he refuses to be paid off.
As to why he indulges the rest of his vices but is bribe-proof, we’re left to ponder, but it does seem, at least in part, that he’s just contrary. His attitude to his colleagues is beautifully illustrated when he disrupts a briefing with inane questions and outbursts (“You lads always announce seizure of drugs worth a street value of $10 million or $20 million or half a billion dollars. I wonder what street it is you’re buying your cocaine on because it’s not the same street as I’m buying my cocaine on…”); learning that virtually every other officer has been paid off is probably enough for him to decide that it’s not for him.
Boyle has a dark, sly sense of humour, continually asking Pierce knowingly dumb – if not out and out racist – questions about America (“I thought only black lads were drug dealers… And Mexicans…”), all of which, in lesser hands, could make Boyle unlikeable were it not for that devilish glint in Gleeson’s eye that reminds you he’s smarter than he likes to let on… With as many one liners as you can handle, The Guard plays out like a cross between Father Ted and Bad Lieutenant and is one of the five best films of last year. Check it.
Happy Birthday one and all!