Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hennessy (1975)

A methodical revenge thriller predicated on the tensions between Great Britain and Ireland during the worst of the Irish “troubles,” Hennessy more or less gets the job done. It’s not a particularly efficient or stylish film, but the central premise is dramatic enough to generate suspense, and the leading players all contribute intense performances. Rod Steiger, exercising an unusual degree of restraint, stars as Niall Hennessy, a pacificistic family man who steers clear of IRA involvement, even though his brother is a notorious IRA terrorist. When Hennessy’s wife and child are gunned down in a sloppy street fight between English soldiers and Irish protestors, Hennessy coldly determines to seek revenge by blowing up the British Parliament. The picture then becomes a cat-and-mouse game as the English police and the IRA detect Hennessy’s plan and try to stop him; the Bobbies want to prevent a tragedy, and the IRA fears violent reprisal. As directed by workaday helmer Don Sharp, Hennessy grinds along in a perfunctory manner, with all of the moving parts in all the right places but no special panache of execution. The supporting characters aren’t developed deeply, so a subplot involving Hennessey’s main pursuer, Inspector Hollis (Richard Johnson), lacks the intended impact. Also, because Hennessy has no real emotional ties to any living characters, he comes across as a bit of an automaton, despite his relatable motivation. (Hennessy’s relationship with his sister-in-law, played by Lee Remick, is just a trite suspense device in the Hitchcock mode.) So, while the danger and intrigue are basically fine, there’s no personal story to grasp. This isn’t a fatal flaw, but it keeps Hennessy from being anything more than a brisk diversion. On the plus side, watch out for a quick appearance around the 15-minute mark by a young Patrick Stewart—with hair! (Available as part of the MGM Limited Collection on

Hennessy: FUNKY

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