First-time director David Gleeson's "Cowboys & Angels" is a feel-good coming-of-age movie that floats on a boatload of Irish charm. The plot twists are too tidy at times, overly...
First-time director David Gleeson’s “Cowboys & Angels” is a feel-good coming-of-age movie that floats on a boatload of Irish charm. The plot twists are too tidy at times, overly preposterous at others, yet it’s hard to resist the high spirits of its appealing cast and creator.
Michael Legge, who played the teenage Frank McCourt in “Angela’s Ashes,” slides easily into the role of a shy and awkward 20-year-old, Shane Butler, who takes a depressing civil-service job in Limerick City. What he really wants to do is pursue his interest in art. In no time he acquires a roommate, Vincent Cusack (Allen Leech), a fashion-design student who can help him move in that direction.
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Vincent is gay and Shane is straight, but they hit it off immediately, partly because of a shared school history and partly because Vincent regards Shane as a promising fashion project. Before you can say “Queer Eye for the Straight Irish Guy,” Vincent is fixing Shane’s hair, applying makeup and making wardrobe decisions.
“You have a sweater problem, Shane,” Vincent says as he raids his new best friend’s closet, “and the only thing to do is throw them all out.”
Shane also has a loneliness problem, envying Vincent because the city’s gay subculture provides him with a substitute family. He’s hopeless at making a connection with Gemma (Amy Shiels), the burger-joint worker he worships, and, just as his mother warned, he falls in with the wrong crowd: drug dealers who hire him to make a run to Dublin.
The money is impressive it will either pay for art school or a new wardrobe to lure Gemma but of course it comes with strings attached. As the story turns increasingly druggy and violent, Gleeson’s script begins to rely on outrageous coincidences and glib solutions to keep the boys out of real trouble.
In the end, it doesn’t matter much. The chemistry between Leech and Legge never flags, even when Vincent and Shane are beating up on each other and becoming temporarily estranged. Shiels and David Murray (as a dealer who falls for Shane) are strong enough to make you wish their roles were larger.
Gleeson has cast and paced the film so well that he earns your trust even if you don’t buy all of what he’s selling.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org