Friday, December 9, 2011

Film Pairing — Tales of Two Fathers and Two Sons

By putting Perrier’s Bounty and City by the Sea together, we have a pair of father-son crime stories, both films with highly talented casts. While one is a dark comedy and the other merely dark, we have similar sensibilities at play. We also have, in my opinion, a similar sensitivity in the bright, young actors who play the wayward but highly redeemable sons — Cillian Murphy in Bounty and James Franco in City by the Sea.

Perrier’s Bounty (2011) is a twisted, quirky tale directed by Ian Fitzgibbon and narrated admirably by Gabriel Byrne. Set in Dublin, it stars Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as a crime boss who takes his own cruel actions as if they are personal affronts. “It’s devastating,” he says time and time again after doing something horrible. Jim Broadbent, convinced that if he goes to sleep he will die and that he will eventually sleep, believes he has nothing to lose by putting his life in danger. He is as hilariously courageous as he is a bad influence on his son, Murphy, who by fate and misjudgment makes all the wrong moves.

City by the Sea (2002) is a dark, violent thriller, sensitively set up and perhaps a bit too rushed at the end. Robert De Niro and Frances McDormand star in this gritty film that has more depth and less levity than Bounty. Set in New York — primarily a tremendously unap-pealing Long Island — the film is directed by Michael Caton-Jones who sets the action against this stark, desolated backdrop. Franco, who plays the son of a seasoned street cop, gives a moving portrayal of a young, petty criminal in way over his head.

It is not only interesting to compare the two young sons, but also the two fathers. Both of them seek some sort of redemption. Broadbent’s character is all too willing to help his son out of deep trouble as repayment for his own failure as a parent. De Niro, as Franco’s father, is a character with a lot of extra ethical baggage. Yes, ethical baggage. He is not at all eager to do the same for his lost son despite the fact the son deserves salvation.

Neither of the films received rave reviews when they were released. The comments were mixed at best. However, from my comfy sofa and flat screen TV, they were more than satisfying. I enjoyed the fine acting, the gritty cinematography and the drama much better than I would a couple of hours of long-in-the-tooth Law and Order SUV or the over-DNA’d CSI Miami.

It doesn’t matter which one you watch first. But, if you want to end on a lighter, more comedic note, do Perrier’s Bounty last. To accompany the evening, why not pour some Guinness? It works in New York and most certainly works for Dublin. And I’ve found a good, dark beer can add depth to the sadness and enhance the laughter.

CAPTION: Cillian Murphy (top), James Franco, (bottom).

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