By now, almost everyone must know about the shock twist that lurks midway through Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game. But even when you know what’s coming, its impact – not least on Stephen Rea’s smitten hitman on the run – is startling. Suddenly the whole movie, always unpredictable in its trajectory, swerves off in an entirely new direction.
Hard now to fathom the lukewarm UK response that greeted Jordan’s film on its release in 1992 – soon redeemed by a $62 million box-office take in the US, thanks partly to shrewd Miramax marketing. In retrospect the film, with its intertwined themes of love and loyalty, violence and the ever-subversive demands of sexual desire, looks central to Jordan’s work.
Rea, always at his best with Jordan, is perfect as the IRA man whose commitment to the cause is steadily eroded – first by his encounter with Forrest Whitaker’s doomed Brit squaddie, then with the dead man’s lover. Though Whitaker’s accent remains more Texas than Tottenham, there’s a warmth to his performance that makes Rea’s loss of faith wholly convincing. Backing them up is Miranda Richardson at her most icily erotic, and Jaye Davidson seductively ambiguous as the object of desire.
And the inclusion of the banal alternative ending that Jordan was pressured into shooting will make you sigh with relief that wiser counsels prevailed.