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REVIEW: "Black 47"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 09/27/2018

REVIEW: "Black 47"

In a year that has offered cinemagoers culturally distinctive takes on the western genre from countries as disparate as Australia (Sweet Country), Indonesia (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) and South Africa (Five Fingers for Marseille), it’s no surprise to find Irish cinema adopting the tropes of that most traditionally American of genres.

Within minutes of director Lance Daly’s Black 47 it becomes clear just what a good fit the Ireland of 1847 is with the western genre, with its rugged landscape, narcissistic landowners and soldiers returning from wars they didn’t understand.

The returning soldier here is Feeney (James Frecheville), an Irishman who arrives back in the west of Ireland after a stint serving with the British army in Afghanistan. The country he finds is a shell of the one he left, ravaged by a potato blight that will eventually cost over a million lives and see over two million of Ireland’s people emigrate en masse to Britain, Australia and the US. His family home is crumbling and now housing the local rent collector’s prize pig, his mother has died from a fever and his brother has been killed by the police over a relatively trivial crime.

REVIEW: "Black 47"

When agents of the local landlord shoot Feeney’s young nephew dead, the soldier starts a fight with the police and is taken into custody. While being questioned, he escapes, stabbing and slashing his way through the members of the local constabulary with his deadly Kukri knife, a Nepalese dagger which like Feeney himself, is a weapon appropriated by the British forces.

Determined to track down Feeney, the British army offers a reprieve to Hannah (Hugo Weaving), the officer whose command Feeney served under and who is now facing hanging for the murder of a suspect in his custody. Hannah reluctantly accepts and sets off in the company of young officer Pope (Freddie Fox), joined along the way by opportunistic native Conneely (Stephen Rea), a storyteller who wishes to chronicle the hunt for Feeney, who is now continuing his rampage across Connemara, murdering anyone he feels responsible for his people’s current sorry state.



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Considering not only its dramatic potential but the role it played in shaping the ethnic landscape of North America, it’s surprising that Hollywood has thus far never tackled the subject of the Irish famine. Black 47’s more rough around the edges elements (unconvincing matte paintings, a tepid musical score) suggest a larger budget would have gone a long way to smoothing them out, but the core components - writing, direction, acting - more than paper over the cracks.

Daly’s handles his film’s outbreaks of violence in a decidedly old school manner, devoid of jerky camera and quickfire editing, and his film has more in common with the gritty westerns of the ‘70s than any recent examples of the genre. Violence often explodes in wide shots, catching the audience and the on screen victims off guard.

Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales would appear to be Daly’s main influence here, along with John Hillcoat’s Australian ‘Meat Pie’ western The Proposition. Both movies feature criminals forced to hunt down men they once considered friends. The soldier returning home to find his people consider him a traitor is reminiscent of First Blood, and when Feeney’s face is pushed into the earth by a policeman’s boot and becomes caked in mud, it’s impossible not to think of Stallone’s John Rambo.

Movies that deal with English colonialism tend to present a simplistic, morally black and white take, with rugged noble natives battling dastardly Oxbridge educated fops. In Fox’s Pope, Black 47 has its clichéd fop, but its natives are far from noble, forced by their dire situation to betray their own people and culture for a bowl of soup. Ironically, the closest the film has to a noble figure is a young working class English conscript played by Barry Keoghan, who bravely takes a stand when he learns the true horrors of the famine and its causes.

In the years since Ireland was granted independence, the Irish have come to learn that their own ruling classes are no different than the British who handed over the keys, and that the struggle wasn’t between cultures or creeds, but between classes. In his film’s most striking moment, Daly has Feeney grip two men of the cloth by their respective collars, one a Protestant minister offering soup in exchange for conversion, the other a Roman Catholic priest encouraging his parishioners to starve rather than convert. Had Feeney known one would eventually hand over power to the other, transferring Irish rule from London to the Vatican, he may well have squeezed their windpipes a little harder.

Black 47 - 3 ½  stars out of 5

Starring: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene, Jim Broadbent







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2018 International Film Festival Brings 4 Award Winning Foreign Films To Vineland
(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
John T. LaBarbera Presents Charlie Chaplin's “The Immigrant” with New Original Score
(TEANECK, NJ) -- Performer, composer, and author John T. LaBarbera performs his original score for Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant at the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck on October 28 at 4:00pm. LaBarbera’s score creates an emotional atmosphere through the melodic themes that are reminiscent of the Italian immigrant music published during the early 20th century. Chaplin’s 1917 comedy about his own experiences as an immigrant draws on parallels of the popular songs of Tin Pan Alley which inform LaBarbera’s composition, highlighting the comedic and romantic aspects of the film through ragtime style, slapstick references, and melodic leitmotif that adorn the film’s narrative.
NJSO presents Star Wars: A New Hope in concert on Thanksgiving weekend
(NEWARK, NJ) --The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents screenings of the complete film Star Wars: A New Hope with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live on Thanksgiving weekend, November 23–25. Performances take place in Red Bank, Newark, and New Brunswick.
East Lynne Theater Company presents "Poe" and "Dr. Jekyll"
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning Equity professional East Lynne Theater Company presents two events in time for Halloween: "Poe by Candlelight" on Saturday, October 20 at 8:00pm and the classic silent thriller, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," accompanied by Wayne Zimmerman on the organ, on Sunday, October 21 at 7:30pm, both at The First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes Street in Cape May, where the theater is in residence.
Basie Center Celebrates Dia De Los Muertos With "Coco" Benefit Screening And Community Ofrenda
(RED BANK, NJ) -- The nonprofit Count Basie Center for the Arts will present a big-screen showing of Disney’s Coco as part of its annual celebration of Dia de los Muertos, sponsored by Basie’s partner program Calpulli Mexican Dance Company. The screening, which takes place on Saturday, November 3 at 11:00am, will also serve as a fundraiser for the Red Bank Borough School District, which will receive half of all tickets sold.


REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Baba Babee Skazala
Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  
NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  
REVIEW: "Black 47"
In a year that has offered cinemagoers culturally distinctive takes on the western genre from countries as disparate as Australia (Sweet Country), Indonesia (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) and South Africa (Five Fingers for Marseille), it’s no surprise to find Irish cinema adopting the tropes of that most traditionally American of genres.
Michael Gallagher’s terrific comedy Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!
Michael Gallagher’s terrific feature Funny Story Premiere’s at the Fall 2018 New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, September 14!

From Our Magazine

REVIEW: "Cold War"

REVIEW: "Cold War"

Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.


Baba Babee Skazala

Baba Babee Skazala

Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  


NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018

NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  


REVIEW: "Black 47"

REVIEW: "Black 47"

In a year that has offered cinemagoers culturally distinctive takes on the western genre from countries as disparate as Australia (Sweet Country), Indonesia (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts) and South Africa (Five Fingers for Marseille), it’s no surprise to find Irish cinema adopting the tropes of that most traditionally American of genres.








Event calendar
Sunday, Oct 21, 2018


MUSIC

DiTrani Bros: Folk, Swing, Jazz, Ragtime!! @ Roxy and Dukes Roadhouse, Dunellen - 7:00pm

Jazz Guitarist Abe Ovadia @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Gypsy Jazz Brunch with Pyrenesia and Max Hansen Buffet @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

Dryden Ensemble: Bach Cantata Fest @ Miller Chapel (Princeton), Princeton - 3:00pm

Suzzanne Douglas @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 7:30pm


THEATRE

The Ghost Princess @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 2:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm

CDC Theatre presents A Few Good Men @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 2:00pm

Wait Until Dark @ Somerset Valley Playhouse, Hillsborough - 8:00pm

World Premier of, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, A Horror of a Play @ Forum Theatre (Metuchen), Metuchen - 3:00pm

The Color Purple @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm

Almost, Maine @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm

Black Tom Island @ The 1882 Carriage House, Liberty Hall Museum, Union - 3:00pm

*Uncle Vanya, Scenes from a Jersey Life in Four Acts @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 7:00pm

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie @ Westfield Community Players, Westfield - 2:00pm







DANCE

DRACULA - THE ATLANTIC CITY BALLET @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 4:00pm


FILM

A conversation with John Cusack Following a screening of Say Anything @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:00pm


KIDS

Summit Farmers Market Pumpkin Painting @ Summit Farmers Market, Summit - 10:00am


POETRY

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 9:00am


MISC

HAUNTED ILLUSIONS LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 3:00pm

THE MAGIC OF BILL BLAGG LIVE! @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm

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