Cowboys & Angels is an Irish movie that explores the relationship between two young men—one gay, and one straight—who live very different lives, despite being roommates. But the scenarios aren't always what you would expect.
Two young men bump into each other while looking for a flat in the city of Limerick. Shane (Michael Legge) is a dark-haired, straight civil servant who recognizes blond Vincent (Allen Leech) from when they were in school together. Unintentionally, the two are placed in an apartment together. The two roommates are very different, and it's not long before Shane realizes that Vincent, the art student who decorates the place and works in fashion, is gay. But he has no problem with that. The two bond, and Shane admits he wishes he belonged to some close knit group as Vincent belongs to the gay community. Shane actually wants to be an art student himself, but thinks his path has been determined. He's also distracted by a beautiful young woman who works at the local fast food restaurant. It turns out this young woman, Gemma (Amy Shiels) is a friend of Vincent! But Shane doesn't have the confidence to tell her how he feels. So Vincent tries to boost Shane's confidence, by going all Queer Eye on his ass. But it may be too late. Shane soon befriends a drug dealer, Keith (David Murray), who lives in their building. Before long, the lost and lonely Shane begins to run with a dangerous crowd—trafficking and using drugs…and possibly destroying his friendship with Vincent, and his chance to ever win Gemma's heart.
There's a lot happening in this movie. First off, it must be made clear that this movie focuses mainly on Shane. It's not a "gay" movie, just happens to be that one of the two main characters is gay—which is refreshing. There are no gay issues being dealt with in this film. For a change, it is the straight guy who's insecure, lonely, a total mess, and falling into a K-hole (or the hole of whatever drugs he's using). Vincent is a career-oriented, focused, angelic gay boy (at least in terms of drugs—he's no prude and does have sex). For the most part, the film is whimsical, but there is a very dark period in the middle of the film—however, it's swiftly and neatly handled. Maybe a little too swiftly and easily, but it makes sense in terms of the mood of the film. You go in watching something rather positive and upbeat, and you don't want to end it on a sour note. Both boys are very cute and charismatic and have great chemistry together, and what makes the film so moving is that it shows a straight guy and gay guy being totally comfortable and passionate towards each other without the straight guy getting all phobic on the gay guy, and without the gay guy ever trying to get it on with the straight guy. The gay guy only acts semi-flamboyant when he's out in public, as if he puts on a gay costume. Otherwise, he's mostly just a regular guy, neither butch nor femme. The only glaring issue I have with the sexuality is a moment that has both boys nearly crossing over to having sexual relations with the gender that does nothing for them. It is the straight guy who stops things fast because it's not his cup of tea. The gay boy goes MUCH further before calling it quits. As if gay men are much more easily "converted," even if momentarily. Believe me, most of the gay men I know don't get these momentary lapses of reasoning like they do in movies. Why are gay men constantly having "accidental" sex with a woman in films? You can say it's just showing that gay men are more open to exploring their sexuality, but I say show us in our true light—as the vagina fearing queers many of us are.
The movie is void of any kind of nudity or profanity. It also has a nice 80s retro feel to it (wait until you see Vincent's fashion show), and there's even a moment where the two buddies are watching videos on TV…and there's an old Haircut 100 clip playing! I immediately had to dig out my Haircut 100 CD and listen to the song all the way through. The movie follows a very straight line to its conclusion, and while it's a little simplistic, you get carried along with it. The main reason to appreciate this film is because it shows a deeper level of how straight and gay men can get along if both sides just let down their guard a bit.
This is a 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a slight hint of haloing, which gives the overall image a soft look. The colors are rich, the darks are extremely dark, and this contrast gives the film depth, which lessens the noticeable softness somewhat. Despite all this, the film looks pretty good and cinematic. The only real issue is an excessive number of blotches (NOT specks, BLOTCHES) and hairs on the print.
The 5.1 surround sound is utterly fantastic, crisp and clear with sharp channel separation. Rear speaker sound is set well back and creates incredible depth. Moments with music soundtrack are pumping with nice clean bass response. I was totally impressed by such great a surround experience from a film that wouldn't seem an obvious candidate for it.
The DVD, although in English (Irish brogue, of course) offers English subtitles for the hearing impaired. There are a mere 11 chapter breaks for scene selection. Also included on the disc are:
TRAILERS—four movies: My Wife Maurice; Gun-shy; Bear Cub; Harry and Max.
DIRECTOR COMMENTARY—that's what it is called on the menu, but aside from director David Gleeson, actors Michael Legge and Allen Leech are in the room, but they seem to just be his bitches, speaking only when spoken to, for the most part. The director leads the show, discussing sets, weather conditions, locations, the problem Christmas caused for the film, the soundtrack songs and more. It's clear that the director really loves his work. REALLY loves it.
DIRECTOR STATEMENT—this is a two-page text comment from the director. This feels like a pitch to a movie studio, because he basically TELLS us what we're supposed to get out of this movie. Any discerning viewer will catch on to all this on his or her own by watching the movie. I really don't get why they included this little blurb.
DELETED SCENES—There are 6 scenes, and you must select each individually. There is no "Play All" option. There is an alternate scene that isn't much different than the one used, there is a scene that would have given away too much too soon, and I'm glad it was cut, a short scene showing a bit more of Shane's insecurity, and an itty bitty moment near the end that wouldn't have been missed. However, there are two scenes that would have helped develop the character relations more. One features Shane alone with Gemma, and it clears up some of the inexplicable dynamics between them (because they rarely interact in the movie). The other scene is a wonderful scene that shows even more of the shared intimacy between Shane and Vincent, which seemed to happen a little too fast in the finished product. This scene also explains where a photo that is prominently shown at the end of the movie comes from, because as is, I completely noticed the out-of-place photo in the final version of the film, and actually wondered if I had forgotten a scene. I definitely think the two scenes that further developed character relationships could have stayed in.
Cowboys and Angels is a fresh, optimistic take on youthful gay/straight relations, and the intersecting paths of a young gay man and a young straight man. While it's all a little tidy and sweet, with only momentary darkness, it's a nice change of pace that doesn't dwell on any gay male issues. It's all about the positive influence a gay man has on a lost straight man. Now that's something we rarely see.