Ride The Tiger

Things fall apart for Liam O’Leary, a millionaire property developer when he meets his doppelganger while stuck in a traffic jam, a sinister exact double that insidiously takes over his life in John Boorman’s snapshot of modern life in Ireland, The Tiger's Tale. Obsessed with finding out who this man is, and what he wants, O’Leary’s personal and professional lives quickly spiral out of control, as the double moves into Gleeson’s bank account, opulent mansion, boardroom and his wife’s (played by Kim Cattrall) bed. Now the Pauper to the impostor’s Prince, homeless and broke, O’Leary takes a journey of self discovery in an effort to patch up his fractured sense of identity.

Much of Tiger’s Tale is related with the heaviest of touches from Boorman, crashing and clanging through slow-moving panoramas of orgiastic debauchery and decadence. A lengthy scene through a nightclub, a stumble along the choked streets of Temple Bar and a visit to a hospital are all presented as the seventh circles of Hell through the unbroken steadicam of Seamus Deasy. O’Leary’s opulent home and free-spending lifestyle meets with nagging disapproval from his politically charged son, played by Gleeson’s own son Briain, manifested as short, undergraduate speeches about socialism and the exploitation of workers. Further clumsiness arrives when the impostor joins the unawares Jane in the marital bed, her initial vehement struggle against his attentions turning to coos of orgasmic delight. Boorman alone knows why this scene is played as it is, but it’s effect is to leave a very bad taste, further undermining Catrall, who up to that point had done little more than flick her hair and wobble her accent. Another clanger comes later, when a suspected “barbiturate” overdose by the already floundering junior Gleeson brings the family to the ground zero of A&E.

There is no doubting Boorman and Gleeson’s sincere anger; they are clearly pointing the finger at the lop-sided, selfish society we have created from a decade of prosperity, with an enormous gap between the haves and the have nots, our dilapidated services and our choked infrastructure. Boorman, who has lived here since the 1970s, and is in his seventies himself, is absolutely correct in a lot of what he is saying; the trouble is his argument is so inarticulately expressed and clumsily played. Continuing his long-running collaboration with the director, Brendan Gleeson plays both the boorish millionaire and the Geordie impostor with the same wide-eyed gusto, steadily racking up the hysterics even as the script collapses beneath him. The actor is at his best in the quiet moments, sipping tea at dusk at a farmhouse table or ducking beneath the breakers while swimming in the sea. The rest of the time he seems uncomfortable and uncertain, not helped by the broadest of supporting performances from Sinead Cusack as the troubled older sister and Cathy Belton and Sean McGinley as O’Leary’s loyal staff.

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