Years ago on David Spade's "Hollywood Minute" segment on Saturday Night Live, the comedian offered his take on The Crying Game's big secret. "Sssh," he said. "It's overrated." Sarcasm aside, I have to agree with Spade.
Is it a good secret? Sure. Is it one of the most memorable in cinema's last 15 years? Possibly. But one good surprise/twist does not make a great movie, and there's very little else in director/writer Neil Jordan's drama to deserve such lavish wide-eyed acclaim. It's a solid, well-acted character study. That's it, I'm afraid.
The main character is Fergus (Stephen Rea), a volunteer with the Irish Republican Army who helps kidnap a jovial British soldier (Forest Whitaker) in retaliation for the British interrogating one of the IRA's own. Fergus stands guard over the solider for three days, and the two get close. The solider, Jody, tells Fergus about his life, including his girlfriend.
With his execution nearing, Fergus promises Jody he'll look after his lady in London when he has a chance. Opportunity abruptly presents itself, when the British army swoops in on Fergus and his mates, accidentally killing Jody, who had run away from his big-hearted friend and then executioner.
Fergus' superior, Maguire (Adrian Dunbar), and his flame, Jude (the always reliable Miranda Richardson), escape the attack unscathed. As for Fergus, he moves to London, where he gets a haircut, lands a construction job, and sets out finding Jody's girlfriend. He does so, and his motives may be less than noble, as Dil (Jaye Davidson) is a knockout, with her cocoa brown skin, exotic good looks and slim build. Fergus' role as guardian becomes more difficult after he makes an unfortunate discovery about his new lady friend.
After some vomiting and a gut check from his conscience, Fergus continues to serve as Dil's companion. That's the most interesting part of The Crying Game, as Jordan shows how we can't change our nature. Fergus, for his tough guy posturing, is a good, sweet guy. He's going to stand by his promise to watch over Jody's girl, and he'll do that, regardless of what comes up. Jude and Maguire can't forget their IRA ties, so they will come looking for Fergus, who has a decision to make.
The twist poisons the movie. When a movie gets built around one memorable highlight, viewers becomes consumed by it, trying to brace themselves for the point of impact. It's a distraction. And with 13 years and numerous pop culture references behind it (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Naked Gun 33 1/3, etc.), The Crying Game is in a no-win situation: The buzz surrounding the twist is the best and the worst thing that could have happened to Jordan's film, giving it an enormous surge of buzz and mystery in 1992, and completely deflating the suspense for anyone who saw it after that point.
Reasons remain to watch this movie: the development of Fergus and the fine performances, most notably Whitaker and Richardson, who plays her character with just the right number of screws loose. Don't feel bad if the movie doesn't hold the same resonance that it did in 1992. A lot of pop culture stalwarts from that time have suffered the same fate.
[Editor's Note: Pete's on crack, just so ya know.]