I am loathe to discount any female director who has the tenacity to direct an action picture. The mere fact that Kari Skogland managed to get this little film financed (piecemeal, through about seven different production companies) is a testament to her sheer cajones. But just the fact that Skogland’s feat is impressive, does not mean her film is.

Written and Directed by: Kari Skogland
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess, Kevin Zegers
Runtime: 117 minutes
Rated: R

“Fifty Dead Men Walking,” a film that’s supremely loosely-based on a young punk in Belfast who becomes an informer for the British government during the Troubles, is deeply flawed.

The young punk in question is Martin (Jim Sturgess) who leaves his job selling stolen goods to the Catholic side of town, and becomes a British spy against the IRA. Sturgess shows a bit more acting prowess than usual. He’s got the appropriate amount of wiry energy and attention deficit you’d expect from a young man out of his depth.

However, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if your name is not Paul Greengrass, stay away from hand-held cameras. Skogland utilizes them quite a bit for the chaotic action scenes, but “Bloody Sunday,” this movie ain’t. The brutal terrorism scenes have significant energy, but it’s not directed or clearly defined. The beauty of Greengrass’ films is that no matter how messy the scene gets you still know exactly know what you’re looking at.

Problems abound, the plot is hastily sketched and badly steered, and most of the characters we’re supposed to care about are so broadly drawn it’s impossible to relate to them. The talented Natalie Press as Martin’s girlfriend carries the traditional actress’ burden of saying things like “When you leave, I don’t know if you’re coming back.” And Rose McGowan is completely wasted as IRA intelligence expert Grace. Besides tossing her fluorescent red hair and seducing us with her wild colleen ways, she really doesn’t seem capable of anything much, much less brokering intricate deals with Iranian arms dealers.

Where Skogland’s movie really shines are the moments between Martin and Fergus. It’s established that Fergus has no relationship with his son, while Martin has no father, and as Fergus sends him deeper and deeper into enemy territory, he paradoxically becomes more and more protective of him. In one of the few humanizing scenes in the film, the two share a cup of Irished-up coffee while keeping vigil over Martin’s new baby.

As a person who spent quite a bit of time in Northern Ireland, it was certainly nice to see a genuine and loving portrait of Belfast. There is a pretty overdone sex scene on top of the Europa Hotel, but though Skogland may not have the golden touch with action scenes, she generally has a wonderful eye for places; Belfast’s gritty, war-like personality shines through in “Fifty Dead Men.” It’s just a shame the plot couldn’t shine in the same way.

About The Author

Emma Johnson is a Blast Magazine critic whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe

4 Responses

  1. Ellen Smith

    I completely disagree with Emma Johnson on her review of “50 Deadmen Walking” — which is a fanastic, edgy, well directed and acted film.

    Its fantastic that a woman directed something as fact-based and up-tempo as this violent drama, without choosing sides or telling the audience what to think She walked the line brilliantly, and Jim Sturgess proves his acting chops in this, without question.

    Thankfully many, many other film critics had similar positive things to say about this excellent film.

    • Martin McGartland

      Marty Mc Gartland (who should know) says:- FMDW FILM is based on 99% lies and IRA Spin ….

      The reviewer got it almost spot on. I have stated many times that the film, Fifty Dead Men Walking, is as near to the truth as earth is to pluto. It was made with the input, help of IRA. Furthermore, I infiltrated the IRA on behalf of the security services, as my book makes very clear, and the IRA that Skogland puts acroos on Screen are NOT nothing like the IRA that killed men, woment and even children for over 30 years. Kari sold her soul to the devil (IRA) and as a result her film flopped not just in the UK but all around the world, which made, makes me so happy : -))))))

      All those reviewers, who know nothing about Ireland, IRA, should go read a goog book about it (Fifty Dead Men Walking The Book) before making silly comments. They are Sheep, silly people.

      Keep Safe Marty McGartland

  2. Marty McGartland

    Skogland don’t know nothing, other than the lies told to her by IRA killers, about Northern Ireland, she was sold apup. The end result was a film based on lies, pure fiction. Find Marty McGartand on facebook.


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