The Money Still Gleams in My Hand Like a Light
Perrier’s Bounty is one of those gritty, grim urban crime capers that peppers the cinematic landscape. It takes place in Ireland, which is also a fairly common trend — the Irish, as our Hollywood stereotypes like to tell us, are drinkers and fighters and sullen bastards in general. Of course, many of these tropes are present in Perrier’s Bounty, but it’s also a different sort of animal. It’s got a gleam in its eye and a crooked smile, and it separates itself from the pack with stellar acting, a flavor for the bizarre and madcap, and brisk and clever plotting that separates it from the pack.
Perrier’s Bounty features Cillian Murphy as Michael McCrea, a glum ne’er-do-well who lives in a crummy apartment, barely keeping the frayed ends of his dead-end life together. He’s in deep with the loan sharks, and wakes up one morning to find a couple of legbreakers (Domhnall Gleeson and Padraic Delaney) sitting in his only two chairs, telling him he’s got four hours to come up with the money that he owes their boss, the gruff yet bemused Darren Perrier (the excellent-as-always Brendan Gleeson). What follows is a descent into a series of capers that manage to effectively straddle the line between goofy and somber, silly and harrowing.
He’s accompanied on his quest to find the money by, oddly, his estranged and itinerant father Jim (Jim Broadbent), who keeps claiming that he was visited by the specter of death, telling him that when next he falls asleep, he won’t wake up, and the down-on-her-luck Brenda (Jodie Whittaker), his downstairs neighbor who inadvertently becomes a cohort when she saves Michael from getting his legs broken. Once he misses his deadline and one of his henchmen ends up dead, Perrier quickly puts a price on his head and havoc proceeds to follow Michael and company wherever they go.
It’s a caper film, of sorts, but it’s also a surprisingly effective study on family and love and relationships. Director Ian Fitzgibbon and writer Mark O’Rowe infused it with the sort of genuine heart that is often missing from such films, and a sense of poignancy that you can’t help but love. Murphy is wonderfully woeful as Michael, trying anything and everything to keep the wolves at bay, but each successive attempt simply brings him more trouble. He’s not helped by the fact that his companions each have their own special neuroses. Yet this odd little trio of troublemakers genuinely look out for each other, even though their accidents and mishaps bring them continually into more trouble.
Of course, Gleeson is magnificent as a soft-spoken, hard-hearted gangster who cares so much for his league of thugs that when one of them is felled, he sets out to find Michael and company with a genuine sense of vengeance and anger. But it’s not the raving and roaring of a crazy man, but rather the quiet, methodical menace that makes him truly intimidating, even when he’s being charming as hell.
There are many quirks about Perrier’s Bounty that could be seen as gimmicky, but ultimately work. The film is softly narrated by Gabriel Byrne as, literally, the grim reaper. His gently ominous and hilariously foul-mouthed occasional observances randomly appear during the films quiet moments and give it a sense of both levity and serene contemplation. It sounds strange as hell to describe, but it works quite well.
I don’t know that Perrier’s Bounty has the legs to go up there with the recent great Irish and English caper films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Sexy Beast, or In Bruges, but it should. It’s got more emphasis on relationships and familial complications, yet is still filled with flashes of intense violence and harsh reality. But most of all, it’s just damn fun, which, given its occasionally darker undertones, makes it a curious and enjoyable experience.
TK writes about music and movies. He enjoys playing with dogs, raising the dead, and tacos. You can email him here.