Michael Flatley chooses not to go to high camp and plays it solemnly in his endearingly silly directorial debut.
After making Irish dancing sexy, triumphing in the boxing ring, and conquering the worlds of flute and paint with his feet, it only seems fitting that fleet renaissance man Michael Flatley is going author with his very first spy movie hug.
He first announced Blackbird as early as 2018 and the very idea of the Irish-American clog as an action hero was always going to bring laughs in Ireland, a country that has an affectionately bemused attitude towards Celt cabaret.
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Well, here it is in all its glory, and it’s what one might have expected – an ego-driven thriller with few thrills that plays it solemn and chooses not to take the opportunity by or laughing at camp (death by tap dance, ordeal by Ceili… that sort of thing) and knowing stupidity.
Chicago-born Flatley wrote, directed and starred in this Bond budget and it’s mostly an unintentional hoot. It’s hard to say exactly when it slips into the so-bad-it-good pantheon, but the sniffle quotient is high. Laughter far outnumbers fist cheers.
He plays Victor Blackley, a man of action and honor and former member of the Chieftains (not those, silly), a motley bandit of special ops agents with a special set of skills that took down bad guys. However, after a mission goes horribly wrong and his girlfriend is killed, Victor drops everything and opens a luxury hotel called the Blue Moon in Barbados. Here he wears a hat at a casual angle during the day and walks around in a tuxedo at night. “It’s a good life!” he says to anyone who will listen.
However, he is still haunted by the death of his lover and when the smarmy Blake Molyneaux (a very Eric Roberts game) and his innocent fiancée Vivian (Nicole Evans) crash into this happy tableau, Victor suspects something is afoot but turns a blind eye. You can tell this Molyneaux creep is a bad guy because he drinks champagne with his pasta, and it turns out he’s an international arms dealer who uses Blue Moon as a hangout for strike a major deal with some African warlords.
As an actor, Flatley plays Victor as a wounded survivor of his old life. It’s laconic and introverted, but it’s a very inert action flick that just doesn’t have enough deadpan banter. Delightfully, before one of the rare precious fight scenes, Victor smiles, “shall we dance?” and when he goes to confession with a wise old local priest, that bequeaths us the best line of Blackbird. More of that would have been nice.
However, everyone seems to speak in lofty aphorisms. When Victor grinds out a confusing little talk about the curse of narcissism, your irony meter can go into the red. But it’s not the dialogue that will make you cringe. This is Blackbird‘s less than an enlightened representation of women. They are either minions or eye candy draped on yachts or loitering around the hotel. In a gaping plot hole in a storyline that already looks like a pair of torn fishing nets, the limpid Vivian, a former spy agent, has been with the dastardly Molyneaux for FULL FIVE YEARS and hasn’t scolded that he is a VERY BAD MAN INDEED.
As a first-time director, Flatley has a thing for panning shots, aerial shots, and tracking the camera around the Blue Moon like he’s doing an episode of an old TV show. travel. Meanwhile, a resounding orchestral soundtrack blares every time her twinkling eyes cloud over.
Apart from Ian Beattie in the role of Nick, the acting is sealed. Even the landscape seems embarrassed. Emmet Bergin as “The Head” gets to cosplay a Secret Service chief, who draws attention to himself by wearing a trilby and overcoat while hiding in phone booths at night by the River Thames. To which we say, congratulations on finding a London phone box that actually works.
Roberts plays it sleazy and loose as the villain in the white linen suit as he prowls around to look like an even more distasteful Peter O’Toole. He bangs the dinner table in front of his floating bride, steals an old laptop, and has his henchmen throw innocent bystanders overboard.
Bruce Willis and the blatant Steven Seagal have carved out a career in this kind of straight-to-the-forget action movie fluff and Flatley hasn’t deviated from the formula. Speaking recently, he said he was told the idea of him making a film was impossible. Well, as Peter Pan once said, dreams come true, if only we wish it hard enough.
Flatley the filmmaker may have two left feet, but have you ever seen Kubrick or Hitchcock dance?