Macfadyen plays Gabriel with conviction, struggling to find the person underneath the monster, but, in the end, the script is too over-the-top for believability or impact.
....and McFadyen does his reputation no harm with a measured performance.
Scottsmovies : 2 star
Gabriel's problem isn't that he's devout. It's that he's crazy.
In fact it was to some surprise that MacFadyen announced that he would be taking the role of Reverend Gabriel Hunter in this small independent Irish film when at the time of the announcement in late 2005 he was being courted by many of the big Hollywood studios.
As the overzealous reverend whose religious fervour leads him to a sort of madness, MacFadyen, despite a script that leaves him with few lines of any substance or depth, manages to bring the audience with him. But for the most part the script leaves him repeating scripture and preaching, which had little effect but to become tiresome through its repetition.
Burke Review: 2 star
Macfayden plays the puritanical priest like a caricature of Robert Mitchum's role in Night of the Hunter, and is so devoid of character, it's hard to take him seriously (maybe I'm being too hard on Macfayden because Gabriel seems like a brief sketch rather than a flesh-and-blood person).
Belfast Screener Review:
...So I watched this film with a sense of dread but by the end of it left it with the knowing that while it went completely over the top two thirds in it was a very well shot, generally well acted...
...It is well directed by Brian Kirk and the screenplay by Daragh Carville is, for the most part one that keeps the attention throughout. There is a fine supporting cast, all Irish actors,...
...Matthew McFadyen is unrecognisable as his former literary leading man as Darcy...
Belfast Telegraph: 2 star
Director Brian Kirk's movie has a dark, brooding sensibility just this side of bleak but it all makes for one dull trip to the cinema.
RTE Entertainment: 2 star
The biggest problem with the film is the character of Gabriel. As both villain and victim of the story he needed to be made human; instead he often comes across as The Terminator with a collar. Macfadyen is chilling in the role but he should have been given more to work with because with a few chinks in the armour Gabriel would have been more compelling. We also never learn why Gabriel is so unhinged and while some would argue as to whether that's really necessary, for others it further strengthens the belief of a complex character reduced towards the one dimensional.
Director Kirk applies an appropriate, darkly muted colour scheme to this grimly bleak environment, establishing an eerie, pressure-cooker atmosphere that recalls Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.Last seen as Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, Macfadyen immerses himself in the role of Gabriel with a chilling conviction. The uniformly fine performances notably include Birthistle's feisty portrayal of the only person with the temerity to stand up to his character in this calculatedly unsettling psychodrama.
The cinematography is superb, stark camerawork and a palette of sombre greys and muddy browns combine to artfully evoke the rural Ulster locale.
...Middletown is one of the finest films to emerge from Ireland in many years.
Well-written by Daragh Carville, Middletown is a superbly acted and beautifully shot drama.
The Post IE: 3 star
With a handful of strong performances and an unusually balanced portrayal of a fundamentalist ideals and their effects, Middletown is well worth watching.
There is a lot to admire in Brian Kirk’s gloomy Northern Irish gothic Middletown...
Crossey Review:4 star
This is a lavish film that is beautifully shot and bubbles with simmering tension all the way through. The plot may jar at times, and lurch toward unbelievably at the end, but this is a parable as much as a narrative story.
The performances are outstanding from a recognisable cast, who capture perfectly the traits of hiding behind themselves, or behind a twisted set of values.
Dublin Entertainment: 3 star
With a little more subtlety this film would have scored a four or five, but unfortunately the overstated drama of its second half takes it out of the category that sends an audience home satisfied yet still thinking and puts it into the ‘good entertainment’ box.
But instead of taking the Catholic Church to task -- as Joyce's fictional father did in "Portrait" -- director Brian Kirk shines his spotlight on the lot of poor Protestants in
. Northern Ireland
Empire: 3 stars
Matthew Macfadyen leaves Mr. Darcy far behind to play a repressed zealot in rural Ireland in the 1960s.
It’s interesting to see a film about religion in Ireland that doesn’t also feature terrorism or sectarianism, and Macfadyen injects depth as well as brimstone into his character. But while it’s beautifully shot in blues and greys, it feels a little too theatrical to ever quite fill the big screen.
The Oscar-nominated success of Pride And Prejudice should have placed Matthew Macfadyen within easy reach of some great film roles, but he seems to have shunned the lure of stardom for more offbeat projects.
Macfadyen can do little to add some texture or shading to the character and is forced to rant and rave as he turns red in the face and cold in the heart.
Evening Standard: 2 star
So what we eventually get is pure melodrama that favours chasing the style of gothic thrillers over making dramatic sense. Which is a pity, since the cast (including Eva Birthistle and Sorcha Cusack) is able and the cinematography appropriately menacing.
Channel 4: 2 star
MacFadyen smoulders in the lead role
MacFadyen's performance is the centrepiece of Middletown and he delivers with gusto, throwing himself into a terrifying performance full of psychotic quirks. Whether killing rodents in the church or "cleansing" himself with steel wool, the Pride And Prejudice star proves remarkably unsettling, banishing the spirit of Mr Darcy once and for all.
A dank, dark Gothic melodrama with a strong performance from MacFadyen, Middletown toys with ideas of religious fundamentalism without really developing its theme.
Times: 3 star
The fire and brimstone preacher played by Matthew Macfadyen in Middletown makes Peter Fonda’s trench-coated Devil seem the picture of civility.
Macfadyen is quite insane.
Matthew Macfadyen is a prickly British star who is now faced with the Colin Firth Dilemma: how to shake Darcy off. The answer is not contained in this extraordinary religious psychothriller, in which he quivers with pasty outrage as a fundamentalist Northern Irish priest called Gabriel Hunter, coming home to cleanse his family's community of vice and fun.
Brian Kirk's film doesn't even work as Gothic melodrama, because it's undone by loopy characterisation: one minute Gabriel's calling down fire and brimstone, the next he's begging to be put out of his misery. The whole thing's as mental as he is.
Guardian Review: one star
Not even the best efforts of a decent cast can help this truly bizarre film whose weird and embarrassing awfulness creeps up on you, slowly at first, then at a gallop.
The movie is very like Lars von Trier in its naivety and unreality, but it has a silliness which is all its own.
A simplistic statement about religious
fundamentalism, this drama stars Matthew Macfadyen as
a Protestant minister who, in the 1950s, returns to
his Northern Irish home town and proceeds to harangue
the locals, including his own relatives, in a manner
that makes Ian Paisley seem wishy-washy. The director,
Brian Kirk, and writer, Daragh Carville, were
evidently aiming for an Ulster version of an American
gothic melodrama, but the humdrum reality of the
setting is unignorable. Thus, when the story becomes
larger than life, it just seems silly. One star.
Macfadyen's performance is hilariously atrocious. But as with Sewell in The Illusionist, he has my sympathy. With this screenplay, he had no alternative but to go over the top.
The road to cinematic hell is paved not with good intentions, but with the bones of powerful actors trying to give life and sincerity to scripts that don't deserve them.
The movie starts well, but becomes increasingly hysterical. It's full of symbols (eg, a baby is born to an outcast mother in a pub called the Stables); the village has no doctor, lawyer, policeman or nearby fire brigade; and if he ever sees it, Ian Paisley would probably issue a fatwa. There is, however, a fine cast and the atmospheric images are the work of Adam Suschitzky, third generation of a distinguished family of cinematographers.
In this Ulster period drama, Matthew Macfadyen is the stony-faced minister of a rain-sodden village, whose inhabitants trudge straight from church to pub every Sunday - his own brother and pregnant sister-in-law among them. His disapproval becomes fire-and-brimstone fanaticism at laughable speed, and the film jumps from drizzly grimness to hysterical melodrama.
Morningstar Review: 3 stars
Matthew Macfadyen plays Gabriel, a missionary who returns home to take up the reins of the parish, only to discover, to his horror, that the whole village resembles Sodom and Gomorrah.
Well, that's his assessment, since the church is crumbling and the locals seem to be more interested in downing a pint in the local and betting on bloody cock fights.