OTwo Reviews: Blackbird (2022)

Hannah Byrne reviews Michael Flatley's directoral debut - originally released 2nd September 2022.

When you hear that Michael Flatley, of Riverdance fame, is directing, producing, writing, and starring in a new 007-esque action movie, I’m sure you are as confused as I was as to how the movie would turn out. For those who think that this combo could only create an utter cringe-fest –  you would be right! With more action movie cliches and tilted fedora hats than you could imagine, this movie would fit perfectly into a James Bond parody movie festival.

The elusive movie, set for release in 2018 but held back from the public due to Covid delays until this month, has raised questions since its announcement: from how convincingly Flatley’s nimble limbs could convey a fight scene to how his acting chops will fare.

The movie follows lead character MI6 agent Victor Blackley (aka The Blackbird) – portrayed by Flatley himself- from the death of his Fiancé in the opening scenes, leading to him leaving his gang,  ‘The Chieftains’, and opting for a quieter life. Flash forward to 10 years later and he is schmoozing with women half his age as a nightclub owner in the Caribbean. When a hotel guest who is connected to his agent past checks in – The Blackbird is forced to fly once more.

This movie would fit perfectly into a James Bond parody movie festival.

Now if you thought that was cliché – then this movie is not for you. Hitting the ‘so bad it’s good’ genre square on the head, the movie’s dialogue  is a cocktail of generic statements from action movies past - “we used to stop the bad guys, not marry them”- leaving the audience laughing, but not for the right reasons.

Defining this as an action movie is a disservice to the genre , with only two quick fight scenes in the 90-minute movie, and one of these happening off camera. Flatley’s character fights off the bad guys with a single punch, washed down by a shot of whiskey. Realism is not something Blackbird focuses on – with Flatley creating a world in which his character can do no wrong. He saves the day, gets the girls, defeats the bad guys – all while looking good in a series of extreme close-ups of his pensive face and oiled chest.

The Irish flag is waved rather ironically throughout the film, with flat caps , priests, confession booths and swooping shots of the Irish coastline to rival a Fáilte Ireland advert. Albiet nice to see Irish culture on screen, some of the tropes, such as Flatley’s character greeting the guests with “lads”, feel forced with a Carribean hotel as a setting.  

The Irish cultural references rival those found in a Fáilte Ireland advert

On a more serious note, the movie has a distinct undertone of toxic masculinity. It is impossible not to notice that the women in the movie are placed there purely to swoon over the men and allow the men to ‘save them’. With action movies such as Black Widow interrogation the role of ‘damsel in distress’, it is disappointing to watch the women in this movie being reduced to sex symbols. 

From the lounge singer sauntering into Victor Blackley’s bedroom and stripping to a pair of Louboutin’s, as if on command, to the underwritten character of Vivian being unable to see that she is with a ‘bad guy’ until Victor magically opens her eyes. The women exist as if in a man’s fantasy.

Despite all of this, the movie will have you rolling your eyes, shaking your head, and smiling - simultaneously.  I couldn’t help but think that this movie would make an amazing drinking game. Drink when someone appears in a tilted fedora, drinks whiskey, when there is a cringey line, the list is endless! For die-hard action fans wondering if it is worth a watch – all I have to say is – The main action scene opens with the line “Let’s dance”.

 I’ll leave you to make your own judgements there…

To sum up – Everyone has their strengths and Mr Flatley, Lord of the Dance – keep dancing!