TV Tyrant: Martin McDonagh’s ‘Six Shooter’

Six Shooter
On Sundance Channel
Wed., Dec. 19 @ 11:30pm EST

Here’s what you’re going to do: In a firm yet respectful tone, command your digital-video recorder to capture the upcoming airing of “Six Shooter,” the Oscar-winning short film by the obscene Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. Of course, you can only do this successfully if your premium cable package includes the Sundance Channel (and if doesn’t, don’t worry — you’re not missing much beside the excellent “City of Men” series from Brazil, and I reckon you can catch that via Netflix).

I’m not much for the theater, really, but after having my mind blown by the New York production of “The Pillowman” in 2005 I decided never to miss any McDonagh play staged in my vicinity. That plan paid off in spades when I spent a most hilarious and blood-soaked birthday the following year watching “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” from the front row of a tiny off-Broadway theater. The plays opens with a dead cat and the  second scene, as I recall, depicts a battered, shirtless man suspended upside-down from the rafters by his ankles — positioned nearly overhead from my seat — about to have his nipples sliced off by a demented Irish terrorist. And it got even funnier after that!

This is a long-winded way of saying that, in my experience, anything McDonagh is not to be missed. And that includes “Six Shooter,” a dark and hilarious gem of a short film with a very fine performance from Irish character actor Brendan Gleeson. (Go ahead, click on his name. You’ll recognize him. I love character actors.)

In a more just world, fine short films would be easily available online and we could all skip past the DVR.

For more on McDonagh, check out this New Yorker profile of the playwright, in which we learn of the first story young McDonagh wrote:

When he was sixteen, he told [his older brother] John a story based on an old folktale: A lonely little boy is on a bridge at dusk when a sinister man approaches. The man is driving a cart on the back of which are foul-smelling animal cages. The boy conquers his fear, offers the man some of his supper, and the two sit and talk. Before the man leaves, he says that he wants to give the boy something whose value he may not understand but will soon come to appreciate. The boy accepts. The man takes a meat cleaver from his pocket and chops off the toes of the boy’s right foot. As the man drives away, he tosses the boy’s toes to the rats that have suddenly begun to gather in the gutters of the town, whose name, we now learn, is Hamelin. The man is the Pied Piper, who saves Hamelin from the plague but kidnaps the local children when the town’s elders refuse to compensate him for his efforts. The boy is the only one of Hamelin’s children to survive, because he cannot keep up with the other kids, who follow the Piper out of town.

John liked the story, so McDonagh wrote it down. “That was the first time I thought, This seems like something someone should have thought of before, but it’s not, it’s mine,” he said. (A version of the tale appears in “The Pillowman.”)

  • More: Why am I bossing you around about TV?

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