Movie Article

Here Comes Mr. Jordan: The Movies

A look at the Irish director's movies, including ''Danny Boy,'' ''Mona Lisa,'' and ''The Miracle''

Neil Jordan's films

Neil Jordan is a romantic fantasist who grew up Catholic and believes in unexpected grace; he even named one of his movies The Miracle. Jordan is also a flinty realist who grew up in bloody Ireland and knows how far the world has fallen. The films that he writes and directs spring from those dichotomies — passions interrupt gunplay, killers are visited with spirituality, love conquers more than his heroes dare hope. Jordan's work is of a piece: Even his flops resonate with feeling.

DANNY BOY (1982) Curiously, Jordan's first now looks like a dry run for The Crying Game: the same star (Stephen Rea, as a musician turned vigilante) in a similar collision of gangland violence and inner anguish. But it's much clumsier in its overt religious symbolism. C

THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984) He gained a sense of humor for this psychosexual fairy tale, a cult lulu that throws ''Little Red Riding Hood,'' Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, and one of those old Universal werewolf movies into a blender. B+

MONA LISA (1986) A breakthrough film, not only for Bob Hoskins — who has one of his best roles as a lowbrow hood who falls for the high-price call girl (Cathy Tyson) he chauffeurs — but also for Jordan, whose obsession with love among the damned fits neatly within the thriller format. A-

HIGH SPIRITS (1988) Mona Lisa brought Jordan to Hollywood, where he made this thing. A frenetic farce about ghosts and tourists mucking about an Irish castle, Spirits wastes a perfectly bizarre cast (Peter O'Toole, Liam Neeson, Daryl Hannah, Steve Guttenberg, Beverly D'Angelo). It's good-natured enough; it's just not very good. D

WE'RE NO ANGELS (1989) Escaped cons Robert De Niro and Sean Penn disguise themselves as priests: Big laffs do not ensue. The director's second Hollywood misfire is pretty awful, but it keeps jerking intriguingly toward something funky and real. And there's a magical waterfall climax that's pure Jordan. C

THE MIRACLE (1991) Back on home sod with a Hollywood star — Beverly D'Angelo — in tow, Jordan effortlessly regained his touch for rueful human comedy. Miracle digs under the lives of an imaginative teenager (Niall Byrne), his dreamy musician dad (Donal McCann), and a glamorous, secretive starlet from a far-off planet called America. B

Originally posted Feb 12, 1993 Published in issue #157 Feb 12, 1993 Order article reprints
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