Blackbird

Review by James Mahon

If Michael Flatley’s recently released self-directed and produced film Blackbird (Michael Flatley, 2022) was a satire of the spy film genre it would be a ‘tour de force’.  It possesses such a derivative plot, ostentatiously bad acting, and generic clichés that it perfectly parodies everything inherently wrong about the thriller category. Unfortunately, there is a high probability that this is a film intended to be taken seriously, makes it one of – if not, the most – atrocious film I have ever seen.

This is immediately apparent with the sheer stupidity of a plot, which is so evidently constructed without any forethought or planning; it seems that neither Flatley or the cast knew which scene they would film next. Formerly ‘Lord of the Dance’, Flatley is Victor Blackley, a former MI6 agent, who has abandoned the agency after a botched mission resulted in the death of his fiancée, and current owner of ‘The Blue Moon’, a luxurious nightclub in Barbados that caters to the financial elite and international criminals alike. However, upon the surprise return of a figure from his past, Blackley can no longer escape his personal trauma. 

If such a convoluted plot written down already leaves you with a feeling of exhaustion, imagine it brought to fruition on screen. The script is the biggest issue among many. Besides the initial absurd storyline, the lack of character depth or any form of progression is astounding. Side characters are so nakedly used as tools for plot development that the audience barely remembers their name. The dialogue is almost indescribably bad, predominantly consisting of Flatley – or should I say Blackley – shouting “Let’s dance!” before a hilariously surreal gun fight sequence or a solemn deliverance of the line “Forgive me father for I have sinned and I’m about to sin again”. Interspersed with this are sickeningly superficial Irish notes – presumably designed to lure in the population of the Emerald Isle. Most conspicuously, Our Father is recited in Irish with no reference to how a former MI6 agent would know the language. Perhaps it was part of his training.

This is not to forget Flatley’s directing. Framing himself as an auteur in the pantheon of Jean Luc Goddard or Federico Fellini, Flatley’s USP seems to be the dramatic scenes. The constant replay of his fiancée’s death, shot like a B-rated horror movie interrupts any flow the film possesses, and the laughable finale of the aforementioned shooting scene is exactly that: laughable.

You could hope for some redeeming features in Flatley’s acting and those around him, but unfortunately this is not to be. Flatley, viewing himself as Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942), is truly horrendous. His attempted style of blended exterior toughness and interior vulnerability is ridiculous in its execution, even more juvenile than amateurish. The fact that he apparently won best actor at the Monaco Film Festival must be some Joe Lycett inspired troll.

The remainder of the cast are not much better. Admittedly they don’t have a lot of material to work with, but Nicole Evans particularly struggles to do much in the heartthrob role. Eric Roberts manages somewhat to portray the stereotypical gangster role to some level of professionalism. Yet that is the extent of any acting prowess for the duration of Blackbird.

Ultimately this film is the embodiment of egotism and self-belief taken too far. It is of course commendable to believe in your skill and ability. But someone, anyone, should have taken Michael Flatley aside and told him to stick to dancing. Humanity as a whole and particularly film watchers would have been better for it.

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