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Why Michael Flatley’s Blackbird Could Be on Par With Tommy Wiseau’s The Room


Until recently, Michael Flatley’s name was not exactly on everyone’s lips in Hollywood. The dancer has had an extraordinary career on the stage, first coming to wider prominence outside his native Ireland after a jaw-dropping performance in his Riverdance routine at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. World tours, albums, and the amassing of a huge fortune followed.

What did not follow was a film career, and nobody expected Flatley to have one — except for Flatley himself. Five years ago, he began work on Blackbird, a spy film written, produced, and directed by Flatley, with himself in the titular role. Strangely, however, the film was never released, and rumors began to grow that the movie was a turkey. Flatley had inadvertently turned himself into the Tommy Wiseau of Irish cinema.


Now that Blackbird is finally destined for a general release later this month, should you spend the money (and the time) to watch it? Here is why you may want to consider it.

Blackbird Takes a Cue from James Bond

Blackbird desperately wants to be a James Bond film but does not quite get to that level. Flatley’s character, Victor Blackley, is a retired secret agent who gets pulled back into the spying game by a chance encounter with Blake (Eric Roberts), an arms dealer — and the current squeeze of Blackley’s old girlfriend Vivian (Nicole Evans). Cue a cinematic smorgasbord of guns, women in bikinis, and high-stakes card games.

Related: Best Irish Movies of the 2010s, Ranked

If that sounds like the script of any spy thriller starring an aging, tired-of-life former superspy, that’s because it is. But hokey doesn’t necessarily mean bad or unwatchable. If it did, half of the Bond films from which Blackbird so obviously takes its cues wouldn’t be bankable.

The problem isn’t the visuals, which, frankly, are pretty good. Flatley invested several million Euros of his own money into the production. The issue also isn’t with the premise, which might be made to work given the right script doctor and a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust. It’s the script. It contains some of the most earnest yet hokey dialogue to hit the screen since The Room. It is also Flatley’s performance, which is far too one-note to carry the entire film.

There is Fun to Be Had With Delightfully Bad Films

The savage treatment of Blackbird started earlier this month with a slew of negative reviews, including one from the BBC’s Mark Kermode, who described it as “genuinely one of the worst films I have ever seen.”

Ouch. But the unintentional comedy in films such as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003) or the infamous paean to the officials behind world football, United Passions (2014), can render them strangely entertaining. Those who have seen Blackbird are already raving about what may become the equivalent of The Room‘s framed pictures of spoons when the inevitable drinking game is thought up: Flatley’s hats, all of them wide-brimmed, all of them set at rakish angles.

Related: 5 “So Bad It’s Good” Movies That Are Actually Just Good

Even more ridiculous is the aforementioned poker scene, in which Flatley wins at a canter, not because of his impeccable poker face but because his hand just happens to be awesome. It’s an example of the disconnect between fantasy and reality that makes suspending one’s disbelief all but impossible. However, it might not prevent audiences from enjoying themselves.

It might just be good

Given all of the above, Blackbird being good seems like a very long shot. But on the other hand, Flatley managed to attract some bona fide acting talent to the project.

His most prominent co-star is Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts as the film’s antagonist, Blake. In recent years, Roberts may have acquired something of a reputation in Hollywood as a hired gun (in 2021 alone, he starred in over two dozen films). Quite a few of them have indeed been dross — turns in Tom Six’s deeply unpleasant body horror movie The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence, or last year’s mockbuster Ape vs. Monster, did little but pad out the resume. It’s easy to forget that Roberts is a serious actor when he wants to be and has high-profile work under his belt, such as his solid performances in The Expendables (2010) and The Dark Knight (2008) and an arch portrayal of the Doctor’s sworn enemy the Master in the telemovie Doctor Who (1996).

Also appearing alongside Flatley is Game of Thrones‘ Ian Beattie, Patrick Bergin (Patriot Games, Sleeping With The Enemy), and Rachel Warren as Brea. And believe it or not, the combination of a decent cast, exotic locations, and faded glamour has been enough to convince some cinemagoers of its quality. Flatley is on record as having thought of making a sequel — if Blackbird does decent business at the box office, he might just get his chance.

Blackbird gets a general release on September 28, 2022.


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