Following in the tradition of English-language remakes of French films, this pleasant but innocuous rendition of LA GUERRE DES BOUTONS (1962) concerns two warring gangs of Irish boys.
In the semi-rural north of Ireland, the Carricks, led by Geronimo (John Coffey), and the Ballys, led by Fergus (Gregg Fitzgerald) dispute each other over territorial rights to sell hospital charity bazaar tickets. The first skirmish between the gangs leads to the claiming of buttons as war
After a series of battles, Fergus denounces Riley (Thomas Kavanagh) as a traitor to the cause. The final showdown has the Ballys attacking an abandoned castle defended by the Carricks; the Carricks lose, and, taken prisoner, Geronimo himself cuts off his buttons and gives them to Fergus. While the
Ballys celebrate in their headquarters, Geronimo, driving Riley's father's tractor like a tank, levels the Bally clubhouse. Finally fed up, the towns' adults, including Geronimo's father (Colm Meaney) and Fergus's abusive stepfather (Jim Bartley), reclaim their children. Geronimo and Fergus flee.
They are hunted down by the parents and police, and Fergus saves Geronimo's life when the pair attempt to climb a sheer mountain cliff to escape. Some time later, Geronimo and Fergus meet again in a reformatory where they've been sent for punishment, and they resume their fighting, this time
playfully, with pillows.
Yves Robert's 1962 film, based on the classic 1911 novel by Louis Pergaud (which was also filmed in 1938 as GENERALS WITHOUT BUTTONS in France), was a minor, sincere low-budget effort which received some cultish art-house success in the US. This new edition is a concise, mirror-image remake,
although the screenplay by Colin Welland (YANKS, CHARIOTS OF FIRE) pretty much eradicates the first film's quietly effective anti-war stance, as well some of its charming innocence.
Though it is carefully grounded in reality (circa 1970s), the rugged Irish country side and ruined buildings of North Cork give the film an aura of fairy tale timelessness. The uninflected performances by the boys, as well as by Eveanna Ryan as Marie, are unselfconscious and effective, and in
smaller roles Liam Cunningham as the supportive schoolmaster and Meaney (THE SNAPPER, THE COMMITMENTS) as Geronimo's father are excellent. John Roberts has directed straightforwardly, although he pretty much flubs the Ballys' nude attack sequence, so startling in Robert's film. This remake is
interesting but never intriguing or surprising; it's well made but pointless. The British-French co-production, produced by the British veteran David Puttnam (THE KILLING FIELDS, THE MISSION), was released in Europe in October 1994. Warner Bros. briefly opened it in Los Angeles in 1995 before
sending it off to video and pay-cable TV. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG
- Review: Following in the tradition of English-language remakes of French films, this pleasant but innocuous rendition of LA GUERRE DES BOUTONS (1962) concerns two warring gangs of Irish boys. In the semi-rural north of Ireland, the Carricks, led by Geronimo (John… (more)