Odd Man Out

This 1947 British classic was directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man, 1949) and starred James Mason (the Desert Rats, 1953). The story is based on the book by F.L. Green. The movie is about the impact on the lives of all those around Johnny McQueen (Mason). The film is set in a Northern Irish city, pick one of the two…and revolves around McQueen as he tries to survive a botched raid. The movie does not explicitly name any organisation just the “Organisation” . McQueen is a leading figure in the Organisation and having been lying low for about six months following his prison escape he has been ordered to execute a raid to raise funds. The film is set against the background of post-war Britain.

The remains of the war are all around and rationing is still in place. The scene is dark and broody, the movie has a classic British Noir feel. The shadows are there and contain menace. Is his heart in it? From what we can gather, he is a changed man since his time in prison, so much so that one of his team asks if he should be on the raid. We learn that McQueen is a person of some worth in Republican circles. The raid fails. McQueen injured and already on the run, must find safety on the streets of the city. As he scrambles for help he must hide in those corners, the snug of a crowded bar, air-shelter, where ever he can.   All the time there is one person looking to help him, Kathleen ( Kathleen Ryan, Captain Boycott, 1947) the woman in whose house he has been hiding. She has fallen in love with him and will go to any lengths to protect him.

This is a classic crime thriller, given the republican/political edge. What is certainly noteworthy is the attention to detail employed by Reed. He manages to side step the larger political issue to concentrate on the person aspects of the situation, whether it be through the dynamic with McQueen and his gang members, the police, the women or even Fr. Tom (W.G. Fay, London Town, 1946). The hunt builds to the violent climax. All the time during the hunt we are conflicted, however abhorrent his background, we are constantly drawn to McQueen and his plight, will he escape, will he survive? What makes this film is the characterisation, Mason is supported by what was largely the members of the Abbey Theatre, the Irish National Theatre, and before you say “so what” we need to remember the Abbey provided such cast members as Cyril Cusack who played gang member Pat and Dan O’Herlihy (Fail Safe, 1964) being fellow gang member “Nolan”. Other cast members included legendary William Hartnell who went on to be the first to play the historic role of The Doctor in Dr. Who ©

We follow McQueen has he slowly and painfully descends to the final showdown with the police. Can a good man do evil, what drives him, can an evil man do good?

Adam & Paul, 2004

Often for a movie to work it needs to work on a number of levels dealing with the characters, the environment and the story itself. Adam & Paul is one of those movies. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, 2014). The screenplay is by Mark O’Halloran ( Garage, 2007) who also plays the part of Adam alongside the late Tom Murphy (Man about Dog, 2009) who played Paul. Broadly speaking Adam & Paul is a comedy following two drop-out drug-addicts. On another level it is about following our two eponymous heroes on their journey through typical days in the lives of our two friends.

The two are life-long friends, whose decline in life is mirrored in each. Adam, is the slightly smarter of the two with Paul often looking to him for a form of leadership. The film follows the two as the wake in field on a mattress only to find that Adam is glued to the mattress. Having resolved this difficulty , they proceed to stock up on their drug supply only to have a run-in that requires their immediate exit. This more or less sets the scene for the day as they meander through Dublin, escaping dogs, meeting old friends, who it turns out are not happy with A&P as they missed the Month’s Mind of a friend earlier that morning. The guys are made to know just how unwelcome they are. In the course of the meeting one of the girls let’s slip that there will be a reception in the memory of their old friend, to which they are not invited. A lack of invitation will not stop them from attending.

Through-out the day Paul has a series of mishaps, from injuring his leg with a moped, to hurting his arm in an attempted smash and grab. The day is punctuated with misadventures and attempts to steal the funds they need for their drugs. As the day progresses, they head over to the apartment of an old friend, one they have been told to stay away from . When they arrive the door is open but thetre is nobody at home. Showing that there is really no honesty between thieves, the guys are ready to steal from her when they hear a baby crying, this stops them and when their friend returns.

This takes us up to about half way through the film and so far so good in relation to our two friends. Carefully written we have had the luxury of being observers, but they carefully shot scene of them mugging a young man with down-syndrome shows us that their actions are not as amusing and “harmless2 as first thought. They later meet-up with Crank who is not pleased that the story is around that he owes them money. He gets them to keep lookout as he and another get up to no good in a local garage, Adam & Paul, needless to say mess this up and do not notice the police arriving, Crank & Co. are arrested.

Without giving a blow by blow account of their travails, the two, having found a dumped TV decided to try and sell it. With the help of another guys, they go to a housing project to sell it to a particular person, the sale falls through and as they are leaving they pass the apartment of one of their dealers which is being raided by vigilantes. Moving past the two hangout in the common area outside the project. As they do the attacking vigilantes destroy the drug-dealer’s home throwing his belongings , including his drugs out onto the ground below where the two guys are cooling their heels. As they are two bags of the dealer’s drugs land near them. Christmas!

Adam & Paul leave to enjoy their new found luck. We next see them early morning on the beach as Paul wakes up only to discover his friend dead, having over-dosed. Paul takes his drugs and leaves.

What might be seen at first glance as a comedy of errors relating to a day in the life of two feckless idiots, might also be seen as a carefully scripted work showing that these two are not as harmless as they seem, death, injury, mistrust and pain follow them. By the end of the movie our view of the two is changed completely and far less forgiving than what it was at first.

I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with Mark O’Halloran, he’s a person serious about his craft and it shows.