“Intermission” is directed by John Crowley, but many of its low-life characters seem more in line with notorious Satanist Aleister Crowley. Lehiff, a young Dublin tough played by wary-eyed Colin Farrell, smashes a young woman’s face as this grungy film opens, then repeats his woman-abusing ways later on. These two black-eyed beatings bookend “Intermission’s” look at a batch of troubled Irish oddballs, in its bid for gritty humor ala “Trainspotting” poured over a vast, Altman-inspired vat of stories. But unless you’re keen on spending two hours in the company of embittered a******s inventing problems for themselves, you’d be better off spinning a U2 record over a pint of Guinness instead.
“Intermission”’s confused “hero,” John (played by Cillian Murphy of “28 Days Later”), inexplicably dumps his lovely girlfriend Deidre (Kelly Macdonald), then appears miffed when she takes up with a married banker. Immediately, the situation feels contrived. It’s a setup for one of those “all paths intertwine” concepts, as their breakup sparks a chain reaction of events involving seemingly unrelated characters.
Jerry, (the terrific Colm Meaney) for instance, is an egocentric cop caught up in the mix, whose level of self-absorption is simultaneously scary and hilarious. As this hulking, pumped-up blow-hard gears up to star in a documentary film about undercover work, he tracks down Lehiff and pisses on the punk’s sneakers in an Alpha Male show of superiority. “Stay out of trouble,” the relieved elder warns, zipping up his pants.
Jerry’s tale is absorbing – he’s Ireland’s narcissistic answer to Popeye Doyle. And even a sociopathic loser like Lehiff is made watchable, thanks to the charisma and acting chops of Meaney and Farrell. “Intermission” falls apart, however, as it plays “cute” with a dour bevy of women who lament such tired themes as adultery, dating, and female moustache hair. We’re also treated to John’s blue-balled buddy Oscar (David Wilmot) cruising geriatric nightclubs in a desperate attempt to get laid. Watching Wilmot’s lusty lad beating off to porno videos is akin to being catheterized, and Shirley Henderson’s played-for-laughs monologue about an ex-lover who defecated in bed isn’t much fun, either.
“Intermission” does season its layered collection of stories with some spicy one-liners that almost redeem the retreaded stories. Self-conscious about the strip of facial hair under her nose, Henderson asks a bus driver, “Do I have a moustache?” His inspired response is, “Well, lady, you’re no Tom Selleck.” There’s also a walrus-sized store manager who torments Oscar and John during their day jobs as bag-boys. Completing each taunt with an acronym, the Hitlerian dictator tells his subordinates that if they don’t shape up, he’ll “TCB” (i.e. “Take Care of Business”). Asked to suggest titles for the reality television show he’s slated to star in, Jerry’s suggestion is less subtle – “Hard as Nails Cunts.”
“Intermission” has its moments, thanks to such salty wordplay. But in playing cruelty for laughs, a film better have style to burn, and “Intermission” goes for a no-frills, digital video look as ugly as its canvas of miscreants. Crowley’s group isn’t much fun to spend time with, making viewers yearn for an intermission as his Dublin train wreck unfolds.