DVD Review: Turning Green

Title: Turning Green
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Directors: Michael Aimette, John G. Hoffman
Principle Cast: Donal Gallery, Timothy Hutton, Colm Meaney, Alessandro Nivola
Length: 85 minutes
Released: 2005
Stars: 1.5

Turning Green is the rather malicious tale of 16-year-old American, James Powers (Donal Gallery), who after his mother’s death six years earlier, was forced to move to Ireland with his kid brother Pete to live with his three quirky aunts.

James is bored stiff, hates Ireland and spends all his time either masturbating (his aunts believe the reason he spends so much time in the bathroom is because he’s constipated) or hanging out at the local pub with 11-year-old Pete, conning money out of its patrons by performing excessive drinking and smoking antics.

James is dying to get back to the States, which he has idealized in his memory, but needs to find a way to pay for his flight, so he starts working for Bill the Bookie because of course there’s an off-course betting office for greyhound races right in his village. Although James takes it upon himself to look out for his older, irascible, fisherman friend Tom (Colm Meaney), Tom ends up suffering a major beating at the hands of Bill the Breaker for not paying his gambling debt and we don’t really know why the two are friends or what their history is.

One weekend, James’ aunts decide to ship him off to their sister in London so that a specialist can check out his colon and while he’s there, he discovers pornographic magazines (which were illegal in Ireland at that time) at a newsstand. James, after learning how to work the black market from Bill the Bookie, decides to go into business for himself and imports boxes of porn to distribute to every boy and man he knows, including the local priest and police. His business succeeds beyond his wildest dreams – making every man on the island look both horny and stereotypically sexually repressed under the influence of the Catholic Church – until the two Bills find out about the money he has stashed.

“It was true, I was changing Ireland, like Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera… or that guy from Thin Lizzy.”

The Bills steal the money from James, James steals it back from them, and they beat him up, with the climax coming when Tom saves James from being seriously hurt and yells at him to get lost and go back to America.

Set in Ireland in the late 1970s, the only thing I liked about this film was the scenery. The soundtrack, although sounding somewhat Valium-induced, is also not bad. Turning Green is rightfully rated R and dominated by despicable characters that I couldn’t muster any empathy for (except for young Pete even though his character was underdeveloped), including the foolish, pimply-faced James. The aunts were mildly amusing but could have added so much more humour; his love interest, Fiona, seemed to be created as an afterthought as she was also underutilized and quite unnecessary; and the director didn’t know whether he wanted the film to be a gangster drama or a black comedy. In the end it’s uneven, not particularly hopeful, and doesn’t hit either mark.

Timothy Hutton plays the vicious, stupid and filthy thug named Bill the Breaker who works for the brains of the duo, Bill the Bookie, portrayed by a more clean-cut Alessandro Nivola. While both actors are extremely talented and capable, their characters are so loathsome and cliché in every way that I had trouble watching them, particularly during one horrific scene in which Bill the Bookie allows a Rottweiler to viciously attack a much smaller mutt for sport and then the Breaker takes the dog outside and shoots it. I felt sick watching that.

Turning Green’s tag line, “the hard business of growing up…” is totally lame and the “coming-of-age” story ends rather abruptly with no real moral to it because most of the characters in it have no morals.

Boasting a rap sheet that includes trafficking, gambling, theft, burglary, and murder, James ends up getting back to New York City (although he’s presumed dead by everyone in Ireland) to work in a pub, leaving his kid brother behind to fend for himself on an Emerald Isle that now has access to pornography.

There are no special features on the DVD and I really can’t see any reason why anyone would want to rent this substandard film or buy it for their home movie library. Watching Turning Green will only make you feel green in the gut.

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