The Raggedy Rawney

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

While Bob Hoskins the actor was getting all the attention for his charming performance in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, Bob Hoskins the director (same guy) was making his feature film debut with this picture--shown at Cannes in 1988, but not released to the general public until 1990--based on stories told him by his gypsy grandmother. Filmed in Czechoslovakia,...read more

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While Bob Hoskins the actor was getting all the attention for his charming performance in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, Bob Hoskins the director (same guy) was making his feature film debut with this picture--shown at Cannes in 1988, but not released to the general public until 1990--based on

stories told him by his gypsy grandmother. Filmed in Czechoslovakia, with a Czech and British cast, but set in an unnamed country bearing a striking resemblance to WW II England, this fantasy drama revolves around a band of Gypsies and the misfortune that befalls them when they take in an army

deserter. Tom (Dexter Fletcher, best known for his work in THE RACHEL PAPERS and CARAVAGGIO) is a trembling young recruit in an army that roams the countryside bullying and robbing the citizens while searching for undefined "enemy units." During a campfire chat, an older recruit advises Tom that

he shouldn't even think of deserting, that his fellow soldiers will hunt down and kill him and anyone who has anything to do with him. Yet desert Tom does, just moments later, during a mortar attack. After the older soldier, intending to pull the terrified Tom to safety, is blown to bits, Tom

tries to flee, but is stopped by his stern, slightly maniacal commanding officer. Panicking, Tom slashes the officer in the face with a jagged piece of shrapnel and continues his flight. Stumbling on the band of Gypsies led by Darky (Hoskins), Tom is comforted during the night by beautiful young

Jessie (Zoe Nathenson), who warms him with her blanket and her body after he goes into shock and is unable to speak. But the next morning her caravan moves on and Tom is left alone again. Wandering the countryside, Tom comes upon a farm where a little girl plays cheerfully with her mother's

clothes and makeup in the barn. Giving Tom a fashion makeover, the girl paints his face and cloaks him in one of her mother's dresses. She then leads him to "meet" her parents; killed for helping their deserter son, they now hang next to his bloody corpse in the courtyard. Once again Tom runs off

into the woods, where he encounters Darky, who's fallen asleep by a stream while fishing. Still mute, and still wearing the makeup and dress, Tom leads Darky to a better fishing spot, and the Gypsy becomes convinced that the deserter is a madwoman with magical powers. Thinking Tom will bring more

luck, Darky allows him to travel with the caravan. This arrangement suits Tom fine, not only because it will help him evade his revenge-seeking commander, but also because Jessie happens to be Darky's daughter. Tom does bring luck to Darky and his caravan, almost all of it bad. As the film ends,

Tom is fleeing again, with Jessie and a truckload of women and children, leaving Darky and his friends behind to face certain death from the army, more bloodthirsty than ever after Tom's killing of the commander

THE RAGGEDY RAWNEY is not a great film, but it's not quite like any other film, either. Its downwardly spiraling plot has a nightmarish logic recalling Edgar G. Ulmer films like THE BLACK CAT and DETOUR, yet its tone is almost coolly oblivious, lacking Ulmer's horrific angst and hysteria. Hoskins'

painstakingly detailed direction creates a world that is almost completely artificial in a film that is at once passionately moralistic and sullenly amoral, naturalistic and fatalistic, realistic and romantic, prosaic and poetic. Whatever it may or may not be, THE RAGGEDY RAWNEY is never less than

engrossing. At times its imagery is hauntingly powerful. It's also uniformly well-acted. Its script, cowritten by Hoskins and Nicole De Wilde, is tight and briskly paced, full of colorful and intriguing characters. However, the script never makes clear how we're to view Tom, whether he is magical

and heroic or just cowardly and opportunistic. It's also unclear whether the film itself is meant to be a universal antiwar tract, a bitter indictment of British army brutalization of the Gypsies during the war, or none or all of the above. And, anyway, who are these "Gypsies" who tell not a

single fortune and who play bagpipes at weddings instead of tambourines? Consistency may be the hobgoblin of tiny minds, but without a consistent point of view, THE RAGGEDY RAWNEY is finally too insubstantial to make much of a lasting impact, and its ambiguity too often resembles evasiveness. At

the same time, it is a film loaded with potential, making Hoskins undeniably a director to watch. (Violence, adult situations, nudity, profanity.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: While Bob Hoskins the actor was getting all the attention for his charming performance in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, Bob Hoskins the director (same guy) was making his feature film debut with this picture--shown at Cannes in 1988, but not released to the gen… (more)

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