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Cowboys and Angels
2004 - NR - 89 Mins.
Director: David Gleeson
Producer: Nathalie Lichtenthaeler
Written By: David Gleeson
Starring: Michael Legge, Allen Leech, Amy Shiels
Review by: Harrison Cheung
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(L-R) Amy Shiels, Allen Leech and Michael Legge
‘Cowboys and Angels’ is a giddily overambitious charmer of a film. One part ‘Odd Couple,’ another part ‘Queer Eye for the Irish Guy,’ the film follows the life of Shane (sweetly played by Michael Legge from ‘Angela’s Ashes’), a young man who feels that life is passing him by. Because of his father’s death, he decides to forgo his dreams of university and instead lands a dead-end job as a civil servant. Trying to have some fun in his life, he rents an apartment in downtown Limerick. His new roommate, Vincent (newcomer Allen Leech), is a gay fashion design student, who dresses very well and has a happy-go-lucky joie de vivre. Shane, wandering around in his drab gray sweaters and navy pea coat, begins to realize that a change of clothes and digs does not necessarily equate happiness.

A film festival favorite, the film happily avoids indie clichés – we could have ended up with a trite comedy/drama as Shane learns something about gay culture and gets made-over into a fashion plate only to fall in love with his roommate. Or Vincent could have fallen in love with Shane only to be rebuffed. Nope, though the film veers back and forth into familiar territory, writer/director David Gleeson clearly wanted to make a grittier film but with popcorn appeal. Shane becomes a drug mule – also known as a “Cowboy” – for his drug dealer/neighbor, to earn money for clothes, school, and to impress a girl, Vincent’s best friend, Gemma (Amy Shiels).

At times, Gleeson looks like he wanted to make a WB-friendly version of Danny Boyle’s ‘Trainspotting’ -- Limerick never looks as hostile as Glasgow. The surprising use of drugs and some abrupt scenes of violence do seem incongruous to the opening of the film when we first meet the doe-eyed Shane. But as Shane’s growing frustration with his life builds – he hates his job and his clothes and is envious of Vincent’s freedom – the film shifts gears into a coming-of-age drama and an anti-drug/’be yourself’ message. Of course, when Shane finds that Gemma is repulsed by his drug-dealing, he changes to become a new man. Ah, the power of love!

Sparkling dialogue and an attractive cast make ‘Cowboys and Angels’ an unusually upbeat Irish film. The last couple of Irish films I’ve seen were very serious and downtrodden so it’s a pleasure to see a movie that paints contemporary Ireland in bright colors. In fact, Gleeson must have studied Danny Boyle’s first film, ‘Shallow Grave,’ as ‘Cowboys and Angels’ shares the same primary color palette.

Problems are few but they don't distract from the movie's enjoyability. A subplot about Shane’s office life seems grafted on – this movie does it utmost to diss government jobs as mind-numbing. And Vincent’s big fashion show/final exam is reminiscent of the big finale in ‘Flashdance.’ But, ‘Cowboys and Angels’ is a star-making vehicle for Michael Legge who charmingly transforms from baby-faced newcomer-to-the-big-city to cynical druggie. It’s a great performance and Legge is definitely an actor to watch for.
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

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