Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran, Chris O’Dowd, Orla O’Rourke, Isaach De Bankole, Aiden Gillen, M Emmet Walsh.
Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) sits quietly in the confession booth as an anonymous male parishioner confides that he intends to exact revenge for abuse suffered in childhood at the hands of a holy man.
“There’s no point in killing a bad priest,” the confessor observes. “I’m going to kill you because you’re innocent.” Thus, Father James is instructed to put his affairs in order before his date with destiny on the local beach.
“Killing a priest on a Sunday — that’ll be a good one,” concludes the parishioner. With the clock ticking, Father Lavelle searches for glimmers of hope in the eyes of his wayward flock including the scheming laird (Dylan Moran), the butcher (Chris O’Dowd) whose adulterous wife (Orla O’Rourke) is engaged in a violent tryst with a garage mechanic (Isaach De Bankole), and his own daughter (Kelly Reilly).
Calvary is a wicked black comedy that contrives a murder mystery before the heinous crime has been committed. Building on incendiary themes in his 2011 debut The Guard, writer-director John Michael McDonagh delivers an accomplished portrait of an insular world marinading in depravity and regret. He populates the wind-swept locations with a memorable band of misfits and degenerates.
Gleeson delivers a towering performance as a vessel of God, who may pay the ultimate price for another man’s sins. He relishes the meaty dialogue and enjoys some fractious exchanges with the locals. Tension cranks up, reaching a crescendo as Father James takes the lonely walk down to the beach to discover his destiny as angry waves crash onto golden sands.