Middletown: Another Cork Review (Oct 2006)

Middletown 2 out of 4 stars

The scariest preacher ever to have appeared in a movie was most certainly the one played by Robert Mitchum in Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter. And the messenger of God in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the angel Gabriel. So it may not be entirely a coincidence that the scary preacher in this movie is named Gabriel Hunter. He is played by Matthew Macfadyen, who was last seen playing Mr. Darcy to Keira Kightley's Lizzie Bennet in Pride & Prejudice. His Gabriel has returned to his titular hometown in Northern Ireland to take the reins of the local Church of God. Gabriel has undergone years of vaguely described religious training and missionary work, and he has now come home, without the slightest ounce of doubt in his mind, to do God's work without compromise. Middletown, perpetually cloaked in darkness and/or fog, is apparently very remote, as there is never a sign of a police officer, doctor or fire brigade-no matter how urgent the need. (Dark Shadows aficionados may be reminded of Collinwood and the diabolical Reverend Trask.) As a melodrama, with thriller elements, the movie (by Brian Kirk, whose short films include Do Armed Robbers Have Love Affairs) is fairly effective. But, since this is Northern Ireland, we can't help but feel that there is some underlying point here. After all, the dominant political figure in the province these days is, well, a scary preacher. And religion is certainly a factor these days in the politics of the world in general. The film festival program asserts that the film demonstrates "the destructive power of fundamental belief." It doesn't really. Gabriel's problem isn't that he's devout. It's that he's crazy. (Seen 12 October 2006)