This unflinchingly bonkers Irish crime film is an intoxicating singular vision that's fundamentally hard to like.
Charlie Casanova (Emmett Scanlan) is many things – intellectual, liar, coward, card shark, sociopath – but in contrast to what the catchy moniker suggests, he ain't no ladies' man.
His power to seduce lies in his incessant tyrannical monologuing that's unleashed as a bile-spewing, pseudo-satirical stream of consciousness, although it only works on his trophy wife and lapdog best friend. Beyond the megalomaniac facade and alpha male bravura, however, Charlie is a plain loser, a wretched human being who relies on an intoxicating cocktail of booze, Viagra and gambling to add excitement into his otherwise ordinary life. He lets a deck of cards decide his fate, a system that backfires dramatically after a late night hit and run incident brings the real world screaming into view.
Narratively speaking there's little to say about Charlie Casanova, not just because it is so alarmingly light on plot, but because of its disorientating structure and arcane characters. It's a single-minded directorial approach and a 'fuck you' squared straight at the audience's collective mug that will leave most underwhelmed if not irate. Which is a pity when so much has clearly been invested (emotionally and artistically, not financially) into this highly concentrated passion project.
Irish writer, director and producer Terry McMahon has paid his dues in order to reach this point – his CV is peppered with low-rent acting gigs such as 'Bad Swat Cop #1' in Batman Begins and 'Tall Man' in 2010's My Brothers. Fair play to him.
As a singular vision, Charlie Casanova is perhaps closest to Crank 2 with regards to its brazen disregard for basic cinematic rules and common logic. This is a film that revels in its own obtuse nihilism with a maniacal grin befitting of its titular shitbag.
In fact, it's so unflinchingly bonkers that you'll begin to reason there must be some hidden order to it all. Yet while this might be exactly as McMahon envisaged it, that doesn't make it any easier to watch.
Sounds like a shit British crime flick.
When in fact it's a shit Irish crime flick.
It's a trip you'll be reluctant to take twice, but as a singular vision Charlie Casanova demands a second look.