The 2003 Irish movie “Cowboys & Angels” is a pleasant–even charming–telling of the Country Boy coming to the City, longing to fit in among the Sophisticates, going from hesitant to putting his toe in the water to nearly drowning. Of the big three, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, it is drugs that provide the opportunities and dangers.
Shane Butler (Michael Legge, the older Frank in “Angela’s Ashes”) has a civil service job (agriculture ministry gopher) in Limerick and has been commuting from home. The housing market is very competitive, and a realtor suggests he rent with another of her customers, Vincent (Allen Leech) who comes from the same town and is an art school senior. Vincent has a lot of stuff and has completely occupied all the bathroom storage when Shane tries to find a place to put his own few toiletries.
Shane asks Vincent if he’s gay. Vincent asks what the indicator was. Shane says “Everything.” Then Vincent says, “You’re straight, right.” Shane asks if it was his haircut, and Vincent smiles, “Everything!”
Shane is curious about what it is like to be gay. Shane thinks it must be grand to belong to some group, even a stigmatized one. Vincent takes this in stride and never attempts to seduce Shane or to manipulate him.
The girl whom Shane fancies, Gemma (Amy Shiels) turns out to be a dropout from the art school Vincent attends and a bosom buddy of Shane, though sexually involved with females. There is a contrived coincidence in which Gemma and Shane start to do more in bed than hug and talk and in which Shane starts to experiment with a man, but Shane, Vincent, and Gemma remain friends instead of lovers.
Vincent gives Shane a major makeover (hair, clothes, and more makeup than Vincent himself uses–going overboard to try to fit in seems completely plausible to me). Contrary to expectations, Shane stumbles into drug dealing not only without any impetus from Vincent, but to Vincent’s horror. Vincent can breeze into a disco that Shane was turned away from before his makeover, but has no familiarity with “party” drugs. They are almost the undoing of both boys, but there is a very amusing means of escape.
Also breaking expectations, the drug dealer, Keith (David Murray) who corrupts Shane treats him very well and does not force him to do anything. (Instead of calling him a “mule,” Keith calls Shane a “cowboy.” Who the angel is is left to the viewer to decide.)
Vincent and Shane encourage each other to go after their dreams in an Ireland quite different from the one of Angela’s Ashes. (I wondered if the movie’s Limerick has as much to do with the real one as the Pittsburgh of “Queer as Folk” does to the real Pittsburgh.)
There’s nothing earthshaking about “Cowboys & Angels,” but it is a delight to see a “buddy movie” with a gay guy and a straight guy that is not about questioning their sexuality. The way they care about each other and foster each other’s self-development is rarely shown as convincingly as it is here.
There are a few “thriller” elements, but the movie is mostly about friendship(s).
I have not listened to the commentary track (director David Gleeson and the two leads). Of the six deleted scenes, I’m glad one wasn’t included (photographing, the fifth), sort of think the long (fourth) one with Shane asking Gemma about lesbian desire had been included.
The color is quite good (with lots of red) and well-transferred.
In addition to posting about gay movies from around the world this month, I have been having an Irish weekend, writing about writer-director Neil Jordan, and the movie illustration of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man engineered by the recently deceased Joseph Strick.