Directors often feel the need to compensate for a mediocre story
by adding a twist or zinger at the end. But what about movies that
start with a bang? When a film has a killer opening, it is asking
the audience to demand more.

That’s what makes John Crowley’s film debut
“Intermission” so unforgivable. It’s not a bad
movie, but such a great opening — a violent, chaotic hold-up
cutting to opening credits scrawled erratically on the screen
— deserves more.

“Intermission” refers to the breakup, or separation,
of John (Cillian Murphy, “28 Days Later”) and Deirdre
(Kelly Macdonald, “Trainspotting”) — a breakup
that causes a slew of characters to collide, make alliances, have
affairs or kill one another. When Deirdre starts dating an older
(and married) man with a steady job, John’s life really
begins to go awry. He gets involved in organizing a hold-up, led by
an unruly, thickly-accented Colin Farrell (think Brad Pitt’s
role in “Snatch”), in some kind of attempt to win her
back.

Mark O’Rowe’s script shines in a few places. These
exemplify the ridiculousness of everyday conversation, and do so
with sharp insight and wit reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino.

O’Rowe, however, tries too hard to shock with his dialogue
by squeezing in as much profanity as possible. He goes for
irreverence, but instead achieves crudeness; he goes for gritty
realism, but the profanities are too awkwardly placed.

The characterizations also prevent “Intermission”
from achieving the greatness of “Trainspotting.” While
the characters in “Trainspotting” cursed, took drugs
and shat in beds, they always remained sympathetic and showed many
dimensions. The losers in “Intermission” are
caricatures, preventing the audience from completely sympathizing
with them. John’s friend is so lonely that he scopes out the
middle-aged hookup bar in the hopes of finding some action and
masturbates to porn with a look of anguish. Instead of appearing
tragic, he merely looks pathetic.

And then there’s Lehiff (Farrell), who doesn’t have
any deep thoughts (besides engaging in crime) or emotions at all,
and Deirdre, whose opaque motivations make her more of a puzzle
than a person.

Murphy’s character does win the sympathy of the audience
with his good — if often dim-witted — intentions. In
one rare moment of tenderness in the film, he sits alone on the
couch where he finds one of Deirdre’s forgotten bras and
delicately begins to finger it. The image communicates alienation,
loss and love like nothing else in the film, yet Murphy does not
allow his character to look pathetic, like many of his fellow
actors do.

“Intermission” does have its moments of greatness,
which makes its dull points all the more disappointing. The
audience, at first enthralled, begins to feel bored with the
characters’ self-loathing, and the profanity and violence
gradually drains its vivacity.

Movie Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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