Fergus, a member of the IRA and Jody, a British soldier develop and friendship. When the hostage situation goes wrong, Fergus heads to London to seek out Dil, Jody's lover. Dil has no idea about Fergus' IRA background, but there's something Fergus doesn't know as well...
The shock sleeper hit to top them all, The Crying Game now arrives on video while still making Oscar-propelled box office history in the US as the most successful non-genre independent movie of all time. Here in the UK, of course, Neil Jordan's low-budget production met with a rather less favourable commercial and critical reaction, the hapless victim of the double sucker punch caused by the collapse of Palace Pictures and the stifling parochialism of large parts of the English media. Now, thanks to the miraculous rewriting-of-history facility made available by the VCR, a more considered second opinion can be offered.
Oddly enough, the typically gushing hosannahs that have come forth from the US in recent months may well lead to a uniquely British backlash as Jordan's film now begins to be seen here by a lot more people than on its original theatrical release. And yes, perhaps it has gone a bit far, with too little attention being paid to Forest Whitaker's hopeless Tottenham accent, Jaye Davidson's unnatural stiffness, the bizarre and outmoded Essex Man caricature, and the inherent problem within the basic premise that — hey! — all these IRA chaps need is a spot of male bonding and the love of a good woman — or not — and everything will turn out just fine.
Set against the sheer harrowing power of Jordan's screenplay and Stephen Rea's memorable performance as Fergus, however, none of the above can stop The Crying Game from being one of those rare films that has a genuinely haunting quality, a film that lingers in the imagination long after apparently more accomplished and considerably more expensive pieces of work have forever
disappeared, a film that — dammit — dares to actually try to say something, and say it with wit, bravado, flair and a basic disregard for the supposed rules of timorous moviemaking in the 90s.
That Neil Jordan does all of this is remarkable enough. What elevates this little gem of a movie into a different dimension is that he does it with the twin taboos of Northern Ireland and adult sexuality and he does it with the aid of Stephen Rea, a great Irish stage actor blessed with a quite extraordinary sense of grief about everything he does. "I'm not good for much," sighs Rea, as the full, desperate nature of his sorry plight takes hold, and, like so much about The Crying Game, it really is enough to break the hardest of hearts
The Crying Game
Released: 31 July 2006
Jordan’s commentary is wide-ranging and thorough, there’s a good collection of featurettes, and a happier alternative ending that finishes wittily with Stephen Rea observing that, “Nobody’s perfect.”
A finely-acted, sensitively-written tale of an IRA gunman finding some sort of redemption in the arms of a British soldier's lover.
Reviewed by Barry McIlheney