We've Always been

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sidebar

26
Tue, Sep

Tools
Typography

The Dunning Man Kicks Off 3rd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley
By Mike Houlihan
We chose Kevin Fortuna’s new film The Dunning Man to open our 3rdAnnual Irish American Movie Hooley. Though it’s the work of a first time filmmaker, Fortuna’s flick bears the confident Irish swagger of a great storyteller. But what’s with that last name, Fortuna?
“My mother is an Irish citizen, and her family hails from Cobh, County Cork.”
I’ll attest to his Irish bonafides as well, because with this film he has created a memorable young Irish American character, Connor Ryan, who fights almost overwhelming odds to discover a better version of himself.  And Fortuna pulls it off in a very funny, scary, and sexy love story, The Dunning Man.
The film is based on the lead story in Fortuna’s celebrated short story collection that Esquire lauded in 2014, calling The Dunning Man, a “funny, explosive, and disarmingly moving” story about “people like you and me.”
I was sold on the film as I watched a huge, snarling Russian gangster with a bullwhip in one hand, wrapping his other hairy mitt around Connor Ryan’s throat trying to get what he wants and Connor snarls back at him, “I’m Irish. You have no idea how stubborn I can be!”
Fortuna’s personal story is cinematic as well. He left the MFA Creative Writing program at the University of New Orleans in 1995 to go build high-tech startups, made a boatload of dough, and returned 13 years later to finish school. Sounds like Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School”.
But unlike Rodney, Kevin got respect, turned his thesis into the critically acclaimed story collection, financed his film and hired his old buddy, high school lit teacher Michael Clayton, to write and direct the screenplay based on the lead story, which everyone kept telling him, “this is a movie.”
It is now, we believe, a classic Irish American movie.
Clayton has done a masterful job of opening up the story for the screen and delivering a powerful punch to an already affable yarn. Fortuna tells me, “Michael Clayton is a genius.”
I’d say they both are.
The Dunning Man takes place in Atlantic City, where Connor is clinging to some old real estate trying to survive with wack-job tenants trying to kill him, a rap mogul on sabbatical with his harem of groupies, and a single mom who moonlights as a dealer at the casino next door, who steals his heart.
When Fortuna signed up his friend Clayton to write the script, he took him to Atlantic City for a weekend, to meet his uncle Harry Sweeney, a legendary Atlantic City character, who took the lads on a tour of all his old haunts.
Kevin says, “Atlantic City is a weird place, it’s a land of dreams tried…and dreams failed.”
“AC” as they refer to it, becomes a character in itself in this stunning first feature, and Fortuna takes us back to the halcyon days of the gamblers paradise with spectacular archival footage of those bad old days.
Harry Sweeney inspired a key character in the film, as Uncle Bishop, an older mentor who took Connor under his wing when his folks died, and tries to steer him clear of the bad guys who seem to be around every corner in The Dunning Man.
Director Clayton speculates on this earnest Irish American lad’s journey in the film, Connor keeps trying to do the right thing but the world keeps getting in the way.  “Being the good guy is harder, it always is.”
But he continues trying to do the right thing. For almost a decade Kevin Fortuna has served on the board of the Irish-born charity, Concern Worldwide US, the American division of the international humanitarian organization that works to transform the lives of the world’s poorest people (www.concernusa.org).
How Irish is that?
The Dunning Man makes its Chicago premiere at The Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, September 29th. Please join us! (http://moviehooley.org)

September 2017

Save

Save

August 2017

Save

More Links

Who's Online

We have 121 guests and no members online