Ordinary Decent Criminal (2000) Movie Review

Michael Lynch, the ordinary decent criminal of the title, is an ordinary Irish fellow who happens to make a living as a professional bank (and whatever else you got) robber. He has a big household, is married to the beautiful Christine, and is also sleeping with Christine’s sister, Lisa, out in the open. The two sisters get along fabulously and seem not to mind sharing the same man. In fact, the sisters make it a habit of helping each out with the kids, as Lisa doesn’t have children.

Ordinary Decent Criminal is an Irish production directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, an Irish enough name if I’ve ever heard one. It stars two prominent American actors, Kevin Spacey as Lynch, and Linda Fiorentino as his legal wife Christine. The rest of the cast appears to be actual Irishman and woman, although I couldn’t tell you what they really are, since they’re all unknowns to me. The movie was filmed on location in Ireland, and director O’Sullivan occasionally makes use of the Irish countryside, although not enough for my taste. The film begins as, and for the most part is, a light-hearted caper film. It doesn’t take itself and its subject matter very seriously until the end, when the movie suddenly turns bloody and violent and feels off, as if it we’re suddenly watching another movie entirely.

Before the mistakes of the Third Act, in which director O’Sullivan and writer Stembridge seems to be going for a huge finish, Ordinary Decent Criminal is a delightful film. It’s funny, witty, and its characters are hugely likeable. Even the cops, led by Noel Quigley (Stephen Dillane), are likeable enough chaps. The whole film, up to the bloody Third Act, seems like an exercise in style and coolness. It reminds me a lot of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 with George Clooney in execution and flash. The capers pulled by Lynch and his gang all goes off without a hitch, and complications only arise when the heist is done and over with. For some strange reason, the filmmakers decided to inject unnecessary blood into a movie that, up to this point, has relied on likeability and charm alone (and being wildly successfully at it).

Americans Spacey and Fiorentino play their roles with the necessary Irish accents, and for the most part they do okay. Although I thought Fiorentino’s accent didn’t come off as clean as it could be, but this was mostly the fault of her naturally husky voice, which tends to obscure accents. Still, Fiorentino looks beautiful as usual, and Helen Baxendale as Lisa, Lynch’s “other” wife, does fine in her role, and compliments Fiorentino’s smoldering sexiness with a down-home look. The actors playing Lynch’s gang and Quigley’s cops are mostly interchangeable, with no one really making much of an impression.

Besides the bloody Third Act, Ordinary Decent Criminal also fails in its attempt at a grand resolution, which comes across as stale and left me with a been-there, done-that feeling. The movie has stopped being clever after the violence is introduced and things get a little bit more serious. Ironically, the movie was most believable when it was being charming. Once the movie tries to be serious, its already fantastic premise (re: Lynch is so well-known that the cops camp out outside his house and follows him everywhere) proves to be too much to swallow.

If you have a remote, I recommend watching the movie for its first two Acts, then fast-forwarding through the Third Act, because like me you won’t be able to fathom how the movie could have ended so badly when it had such a marvelous beginning and middle.

Thaddeus O’Sullivan (director) / Gerard Stembridge (screenplay)
CAST: Kevin Spacey …. Michael Lynch
Linda Fiorentino …. Christine Lynch
Peter Mullan …. Stevie
Stephen Dillane …. Noel Quigley
Helen Baxendale …. Lisa
David Hayman …. Tony Brady

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