What a strange film. I don’t think I’ve found myself rolling my eyes in pained disbelief quite so many times in all the movies I’ve reviewed thus far, and yet the schmaltzy over indulgence did kind of get me interested toward the end, despite the protestations of my brain. I went into this with no prior knowledge of what it was about, but if you watch it, you must be prepared for a fairytale story defined by mystical notions, such as the biblical tussle of angels and demons for the souls of mankind and the concepts of miracles, fate and those worthy enough becoming stars in the heavens once they die. What happens once these stars go supernova, is not discussed.
The central character is Irish-American Peter Lake, played by Colin Farrell, whose parents set him adrift in a toy boat in New York harbour whilst they leave for presumably a better life elsewhere (the parents are displayed as caring ones, so this is not exactly a deed that will see many audience members warm to the start of the film). As luck would have it, the young child is picked up by Russell Crowe who seems to be playing an Irish Fagan, except that he’s also a demon, and his initial over acting and accent borders on the derogatory (he gets a little more palatable toward the end). In adulthood Lake rebels against his thieving foster father and this is where most of the story takes place, as he soon encounters a guardian spirit in the form of a flying white stallion (not in any way inspired by Pegasus you understand) and then breaks into a house for his last robbery in town, but then decides to steal the heart of the young lass he finds there instead using his Irish brogue and his horse (yes, it is that cheesy, though one suspects she had been fantasising about a burly Irishman breaking into to her private chambers for quite some time) although, tragically, she is dying of the consumption (that’s tuberculosis to you and I, although this particular victim appears to be in every visible way the picture of health) and thus destiny and fate become intertwined, together with their loins.
I won’t ruin the surprise of who turns up playing Lucifer. It’s Will Smith. Oops, well, it wasn’t really all that exciting, just like the movie. Truly, the first entire two thirds of this film should be eviscerated from existence, but even the black heart of I, The Red Dragon, was slightly moved by parts of the ending (I still wanted to gag at some bits here too though), due in part to me having already written it off and then finding the film had a few surprises in store. It’s the directorial debut of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who wrote the screenplay for ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (01), ‘A Time to Kill’ (96) and … ‘Batman & Robin’ (97), and it’s based on the novel ‘Winter’s Tale’ (1983) by Mark Helprin (the film title outside of the UK and Ireland is the same as the book, it seems possible confusion with Shakespeare is confined to the British Isles). Downtown Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay plays the object of Lake’s affections, Jennifer Connoly and William Hurt make brief appearances, and happily so does Eva Marie Saint – best supporting actress Oscar winner for 1954’s ‘On the Waterfront’.