Rated: R for sexual references, language, brief strong violence and some drug use. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: August 1, 2014 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
A jaded, jagged Brendan Gleeson headlines this Ireland-based sensitively drawn, if unhurried darkly humorous mystery of a fable from John Michael McDonagh (The Guard) who also penned the script. He's the brother of playwright Martin for those who remember the intriguing In Bruges (which also starred Gleeson) and the weirdly amusing ensemble commentary on violence with a bit of insouciance, "Seven Psychopaths".
Something heartfelt from the eccentric and episodically slapdash ultimately ties into reconciliation as Gleeson is now Father James instead of a Sergeant mismatched with a FBI agent (Don Cheadle) in the aforementioned raucous indie. A man trying to come to terms with his existence.
The priest is still traumatized from the loss of his wife and new vocation as the writing definitely exudes a snappiness that beats amidst a fatalism. The cleric gets a jolt when in confession an unseen parishioner reveals that he'll shoot him point blank between the eyes next Sunday.
In this sly, if meandering drama after the arrival of very despondent daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) he meets up with colorful, if insane folk like Chris O'Dowd's bigoted, menacing oaf of a butcher as well as a rich, smarmy alcoholic banker (Dylan Moran) self-loathing and profane that adds up to plenty of witty interludes. Also, M. Emmet Walsh is a crusty, aged fisherman, as well as a grieving French woman (Marie-Josee Croze). There's even a convicted murderer, an impenitent Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, About Time), Brendan's real-life son to add at least one standout scene.
An honest, casual rapport is felt with a necessitous Reilly, while Moran and O'Dowd (Thor The Dark World) are definitely scene-stealers, as Gleeson tapers his cynical persona. It's pungent but not really that spry as we learn the conviction around the ramifications of physical abuse that Fr. James must assume culpability and an always watchable Gleeson delivers a heartfelt portrait of verisimilitude. The surreal, bold approach by McDonagh might be detaching but could resonate especially for those impelled to put their affairs in a higher priority.
Calvary profoundly fuses its motifs with a caustic, gallows manner that may call to mind the mindset of Quentin Tarantino, even Seth McFarlane as ebullient characters and digital widescreen lensing (of some picturesque scenery) add up to a blusterous tease and unexpected revelatory oscillations. Maybe McDonagh could have worked a little more efficiently with his editor, but the well-drawn characters, subtlety and literacy mindfully echoes and beats with darkly, intriguing brilliance. Maybe even more so than the more coherent, bantering fervor felt in The Guard.