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Crossmaheart

The first feature to be shot wholly in Northern Ireland since the cease-fire, "Crossmaheart" is moderately successful at bringing the offbeat fiction of former Ulster journo Colin Bateman to the screen. Well played by leads Gerard Rooney and, especially, Maria Lennon, and scripted by Bateman himself, this romance-cum-crimer is flawed by some uneasy shifts of tone in the first half and direction by Henry Herbert that's not quite secure enough to bring off the quirky mix. Small-screen sales look to be healthier than theatrical.

With:
Kevin Miller ..... Gerard Rooney Marie ..... Maria Lennon Sgt. Craig ..... Desmond Cave Minister ..... Tim Sloane

The first feature to be shot wholly in Northern Ireland since the cease-fire, “Crossmaheart” is moderately successful at bringing the offbeat fiction of former Ulster journo Colin Bateman to the screen. Well played by leads Gerard Rooney and, especially, Maria Lennon, and scripted by Bateman himself, this romance-cum-crimer is flawed by some uneasy shifts of tone in the first half and direction by Henry Herbert that’s not quite secure enough to bring off the quirky mix. Small-screen sales look to be healthier than theatrical.

Bateman’s often darkly comic novels, set against the sectarian strife, are a challenge to translate to the bigscreen (his “Divorcing Jack,” shot soon after the present item, also screened in the Cannes mart). This moderately budgeted production by newcomer Lexington Films (“The Girl with Brains in Her Feet”) has its moments when centering on the romance but needed a stronger hand on the tiller to navigate a smooth course through the the personal, political and criminal elements.

After coming back to the office drunk from his father’s wake, journalist Kevin (Rooney) is posted to Crossmaheart, a small town near the Eire border where the previous reporter has mysteriously disappeared. Kevin gets his first taste of the simmering violence when he’s threatened with kneecapping simply to keep a guy’s name out of the papers.

The upside to his transfer is meeting Marie (Lennon), the purposeful g.f. of the missing reporter; after a false start, the two connect. When her boyfriend’s body is found chopped up on a garbage heap, Marie goes AWOL, and Kevin is left to solve the mystery of his murder against a colorful supporting cast that includes gonzo terrorists, a pedophile minister and a tough but sympathetic cop (Desmond Cave) who knows more than he’s willing to divulge.

Lennon is simply terrific as the forthright, upfront Marie, and when she’s not onscreen the pic’s wattage noticeably dips. As Kevin, Rooney blends easily enough with her, and has a quiet charm. Director Herbert never brings a thoroughgoing style to the movie. Cave comes through strongly in the latter half as the cop, with a slowly ripening characterization that exposes some of the weaknesses in the other supports, whose roles don’t always ring true nor grow as they should.

Tech credits are solid, with a low-key orchestral score that’s quietly supportive. Pic originally shot last summer under the source novel’s title, “Cycle of Violence.”

Crossmaheart

(DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A Lexington Films production. (International sales: Portman Entertainment, London.) Produced by Don Boyd, Stephanie Mills. Directed by Henry Herbert. Screenplay, Colin Bateman, based on his novel "Cycle of Violence."

Crew: Camera (Metrocolor), Peter Butler; editor, Adam Ross; music , Gary Kemp, Edward Shearmur; production designer, Shane Bunting; art director, Gillian Devenney; sound (Dolby), Mervyn Moore; associate producer, Alison Kerr; assistant director, Crispin Buxton; casting, Ros and John Hubbard. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 18, 1998. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: Kevin Miller ..... Gerard Rooney Marie ..... Maria Lennon Sgt. Craig ..... Desmond Cave Minister ..... Tim Sloane

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