Star Rating:


Director: Michael Flatley

Actors: Michael Flatley, Eric Roberts, Patrick Bergin

Release Date: Friday 2nd September 2022

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 90 minutes

After the violent death of his fiance, Victor Blackley (Michael Flatley) retires from his MI5 unit - codenamed the Chieftains - and opens a hotel in Barbados. With former members of his unit (Ian Beattie, Lara Lemon, Anthony Chisholm), the hotel becomes a hotbed for criminal dealings and draws Blake Molyneux (Eric Roberts) to complete a deal there. Accompanying Molyneux is Vivian (Nicole Evans), a former member of Blackley's unit and an old flame, who is now engaged to Molyneux...

Going into 'Blackbird', the initial fear that prevailed was that this was going to be competent. Boringly competent. The kind of dreck that chokes up streaming platforms, week after week, and never really makes any impact or lasting impression. There's an entire industry built out of action movies with semi-recognisable actors appearing in it for a scene or two, and they're generally quite competent if a little stilted. The poster certainly looked like one of them, and the trailer seemed to suggest this was the case.

All those fears disappeared the minute Michael Flatley - hereafter known as the Flat One - opened his mouth and said his first line. The fears began to subside when he was the only person standing in the rain in a throng of people with no umbrella at a funeral, but they flashed away the minute he spoke. There is something about the Flat One's delivery of lines, the way he arranges himself on screen, his very presence, that is just at odds with reality. For someone who has spent a career in show business and has been quite successful at it, he seems completely out of his depth on screen. His lines are delivered in a blank monotone. "I'm firing on all cylinders," he says with the intensity of a mild cough. When he gets into a scrap with a henchman, it's over in a matter of seconds with two punches and some fabulously arranged blood spatters. When he has a romantic moment with female characters, it just looks uneasy and strange.

Indeed, 'Blackbird' is much less of an actioner than the posters and the trailer suggest. If anything, it's closer to some kind of romance between him and Nicole Evans, but it just doesn't make sense. His character is haunted by the death of his fiancée, who never gets a single word of dialogue other than muffled screams and is about twenty years younger than him. How is the audience supposed to empathise? Well, much like Poochie the Dog, everyone is talking about him when he's not on screen. In fact, everyone in this movie just seems to be talking about the Flat One's character to other characters, or talking to him with other characters present. In other words, if there's a romance here, it's not with Nicole Evans' character. The romance is with the Flat One himself.

Much like Tommy Wiseau or Orson Welles, he's taken to self-financing, writing, producing, and directing 'Blackbird'. The failure is his, and his alone. The cast assembled - including Patrick Bergin, Ian Beattie, and Nicole Evans - are only able to do so much with what they're given, which is less than nothing. The cinematography is competent, in the sense that everything's in focus and there's adequate lighting to see what's going on. The editing, meanwhile, appears to have been carried out with a rusty hacksaw and assembled about five minutes before we turned up to watch. Any of the fight sequences happen off-screen with a few bits of library sound effects or are quickly cut away from. This part is particularly disappointing, as action sequences are so often compared to dance movements - an aspect the Flat One knows all too well.

'Blackbird' is barely a movie, much less a good one. It is a rich man's folly. The uber-wealthy of late have taken to funding far-right campaigns, tormenting communities on the margins of society, or just generally being awful. That the Flat One has chosen to spend some portion of his wealth on a comedy spectacle - unintentional though it may be - and not on fomenting violence is a small mercy. It is ninety-odd minutes of self-aggrandising muck and it is probably going to attain cult trash cinema status as a result.

The only question remains - shall we dance?