INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review) . "Turning Green"

The title could have a number of meanings. It could be talking about the Irish landscape which is, indeed, verdant. Or, it might refer to improving ecology. Maybe, even, a movie rating. But, no. It refers to something in a more commercially lucrative sense. It's about money.

If you saw Ken Loach's 2002 film, "Sweet Sixteen," written by Irish/Scottish Paul Laverty, you might get the impression that modern movie-making celts love a coming-of-age story about an underprivileged young man growing up in the company of local mobsters and scamming those who could do great harm to them in order to have a better life. "Turning Green" isn't an exact carbon copy, but it's surprisingly close--down to the age of the protagonist.

He is 16-year old James Powers (debuting Donal Gallery) but one thing that sets him apart from his local comrades is that he's a transplant from America, having been shed by his Irish father and sent kicking, screaming and masturbating to live with three spinster aunts and his younger, adoring brother Pete (Killian Morgan). About all James has on his mind, at this point, is sex, how to find a way back to America and sex. Which is dramatically germane, and leading to the question, what's a sixteen year-old boy who has quit school to do?

For one, he's picked up a job as a collector for slick and somewhat slimy Bill the Bookie (Alessandro Nivola) who pretty much has the town under his thumb for all things illicit and, in any way, profitable. In this local sharpy's employ, ever at his bidding, is Bill the Breaker (Timothy Hutton) who lives to straighten out those who don't understand gambling and the consequences of not paying your debts. No one takes advantage of Bill number one without receiving a somewhat painful lesson from Bill number two.

It's clear from the get-go that Bill the Bookie has taken a shine to his young hustler protege', and that Bill the Breaker isn't thrilled about it. He'd as soon cripple James for the natural gifts that make him quicker and smarter. He's not at all pleased at the boss teaching junior the ropes and the extent of his gambling operations. But, well, time will tell.

James is not without a few better connections. Count in his idolizing li'l bro' and, most emphatically, his friend Tom (Colm Meaney), an older man and role model whom he respects and trusts. James has also got his eye on one of the pretty girls he met at school.

With little hope of acquiring the resources he needs for a return to the U.S., he goes on in this manner, doing his job, dreaming his dreams and spending hours in the bathroom. This latter activity gives his clueless aunts cause to believe that he's got a gastrointestinal problem for which, in an act of considerable magnanimity, they send him to London to see an old friend who happens to be a specialist in that part of the body.

Going along with his elders' pitiless prognosis for what ails him, James prowls London and discovers that they sell porn there! Right out in the open at little magazine stands!! As something considered illegal in Ireland and rarely if ever seen, he jumps at the chance to acquire a few of the girlie magazines and, upon returning home with his little collection, he discovers that he can get five quid apiece for each one. James, perfectly willing to pay off the police (in money and magazines) so as to operate freely--a business overhead he learned about from boss Billie--he has just found the way home.

Local men are so starved for his imported inventory that it's all he can do to keep up with the demand. He's hit a nerve and finds a secret place to amass his wealth, in cash. But success sometimes breeds problems. It might seem like a good thing that the local community of customers run out of money before exhausting their need. But, where is Bill the Bookie going to get his proceeds from? His dog racing track is a ghost town, and he's not understanding why nor liking it very much. When he finally finds out what's causing the slump in his business, and who's behind it, well... James is in for a little meeting with Bill the Breaker's knuckles and maybe a rethought about the dreams he's been fostering.

The movie is nicely put together with young actor Gallery showing a fine aptitude for satiric humor and sympathetic appeal, however poorly his character's moral baseline might be. Nivola avoids the stereotypes associated with his role of dapper mob boss with against-type sensitivity mixing around a core of greed and cruelty.

Writer-directors Michael Aimette and John G. Hofmann can afford to allow their chief gangster more emotional leeway than most head men because he's got his Breaker at his side. In what may be a very small and secondary role away from the focal point of the story, especially when you compare his screen time to his prominence in the poster art for the movie, it's clear that Hutton enjoyed every minute of doing gruff, gross thugishness and boorish simplicity. Hutton's presence is a highlight and gag inducement that well augments his name value to the film's grosses.

Altogether, this film, made in 2005, is worthy of its stateside release and worthy of your time, either at a theatre or at home when it's released on DVD. Runs a neat 85 minutes.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Donal Gallery is American-born James Powers
Exiled to a small Irish town and needing a way back.

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