The Actors (2003) – movie review

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Movie Review by Toby White

Starring: Michael Caine, Dylan Moran, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson
Director: Conor McPherson

Ever since my surprise at seeing his appearance as the hapless book thief in NOTTING HILL I have to admit I have been awaiting a bigger turn from brilliant stand-up comic Dylan Moran on the big screen. By no means do I mean to belittle the fact that Michael Caine co-stars, more that I was eager to see what Mr Moran makes of a more substantial role in the movie medium.

And along comes THE ACTORS. If ever there were parts for them both to sink their teeth into and send up, then these are they. Moran plays Tom, a struggling actor challenging directors of low budget sausage commercials in between bit-parting in a dire rendition of Richard III (which Caine, as O’Malley, headlines) at a provincial smallville theatre, who becomes embroiled in the embittered O’Malley’s plans to out-do two-bit gangsters of shed loads of cash. Their method? By posing as all manner of characters as their ludicrous attempts to evade the subsequent trail they leave for themselves becomes ever more complicated and comical. Perfect. At least for a pair such as they – comedian and celebrated actor ‘par excellence’.

The pedigree of this film is certainly impressive. Caine and Moran aside, the supporting cast includes Michael Gambon as Barreller and Miranda Richardson as Magnani, the gangsters in question. To boot, it harks from the hand of Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE) and Conor McPherson (a rising Irish writing and directing talent) who also directs. The beauty of it is that all this talent came together for a low key comedy caper and buck the overblown big budget one might have expected. It renders it humble, charming, in fact.

There’s nothing really new in its content or direction – it pains me to say that it has the feel of Dirty Rotten Thespians about it – but for its sheer simplicity across the board; story, performances, direction etc, it’s a very warming film.

So to Moran’s performance. One would imagine it’s a part for which any actor (particularly one so light in movie credits) would commit murder and it has to be said, he steals the show. Although admittedly he’s given the opportunity to do so – one gets the impression that Caine, to his credit, stepped aside and let him loose. Yes, indeed, Moran steals the show…at least he would have done had they not cast the phenomenally bright Abigail Iversen as Tom’s 9 year old niece Mary and mentor to our hapless heroes. It’s worth a look just for her performance.

4 out of 6 stars