Trojan Eddie (1996)

“It’s as if the story’s already begun.”

Trojan Eddie (Stephen Rea) is a talented salesman who’s hemmed in–like most of us–by a lack of cash and no opportunities. Set in present-day Ireland, Trojan Eddie is in the pay of local racketeer, John Power (Richard Harris). Power supplies the goods (which seem suspiciously hot), and then Eddie and his assistant Dermot (Stuart Townsend) work the sales miracle, and by putting on an impressive sideshow, manage to sell things to people that they didn’t even know they wanted. By all rights, Trojan Eddie should be a successful businessman, but after giving his thuggish boss his cut from the sale, Eddie is left with just enough to scrape by.

Eddie dreams of hitting the big time, but for that he needs cash. He knows he can be successful if he could just find enough seed money to get him on his feet, but that seems unlikely to happen. Thanks to Eddie’s philandering wife, Shirley (Angeline Ball), a woman who comes and goes as she feels like it in Eddie’s life, Power, and his squad of goons, consider Eddie to be a bit of a joke. As a cuckold, Eddie is the butt of everyone’s humour, and since he’s a minor, barely tolerated member of Power’s team, he’s near to the last on the food chain.

But then Power, who’s widowed, sets his sights on a young girl named Kathleen (Aislin McGuckin)–part of a tinker family. Power imagines that he can have Kathleen, who is abysmally poor and living in squalid circumstances, quite easily. While Power treats Kathleen with quiet reverence, he makes it clear to her family that she’s his for the taking.

Directed by Gillies MacKinnon and based on a novel by Billy Roche, the film explores exactly what happens when Power loses his heart to a much younger woman. By all rights, Trojan Eddie should just be an outside observer of the events that take place, but he’s reluctantly dragged into a potentially explosive situation. Stephen Rea is a wonderful actor, and it’s a delight to see him in this film as a harmless, small time hustler who’s condemned, by circumstance, to rub shoulders with people he dislikes. Just how Eddie manages to maintain some dignity and independence while trying to stay on the good side of his thuggish employer makes Trojan Eddie an entertaining film. (I filed this one under “Irish” since it’s set in Ireland, but its director is Scottish)

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