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Film / The Crying Game

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The original great confuser.

Those eyes, those thighs,
It's the Crying Gaaaaame!
I didn't order that!
Billy Crystal (to the tune of "The Tender Trap"), during his famous song-and-dance bit at the 1993 Oscars

So you want to know about The Crying Game? The movie is best remembered for its now-infamous plot twist, but there's more to it than that.

Fergus (Stephen Rea) is a grunt in the IRA. He and his cell capture a British soldier stationed in Northern Ireland, Jody (Forest Whitaker). They hold him hostage, hoping Britain will release one of their own in exchange for Jody's safety. If the British government refuses to comply, the IRA will execute Jody. Fergus is only supposed to guard the prisoner. He's not supposed to take his hood off. He's definitely not supposed to humanize Jody. Unfortunately, Fergus is at heart, a decent guy. He can't resist treating Jody humanely.

Over the next four days, Fergus and Jody get to know each other. Jody tells his captor about his girl back home, Dil. He even shows Fergus a picture in his wallet. He bemoans the fact that he might never see her again, and asks Fergus to look after her, should the worst befall him.

Of course, the order eventually comes down that Jody has to die. Fergus is slated for the task, but can't bring himself to do it, buying Jody a chance for escape...which gets him about as far as the nearest road where he's quickly run over by an APC. The British army has found the IRA hiding spot, it seems. Distraught, Fergus runs for it, fleeing both the British soldiers and his former comrades in arms.

Having no other course of action, Fergus makes his way to London to honor Jody's last request. He reinvents himself as Jimmy and finds Dil working as a hairdresser and sometime lounge singer. Though he means to tell her the truth about himself, he finds himself falling for her first. But, he's not the only one with a secret.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Dave for Dil.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Jody says Jude is not his type (though he's enthusiastic enough about trying to have sex with her) and expresses dislike towards women in general, while Dil, who turns out to be biologically male, is "special" and "different". What all this means for Jody being homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual is up for debate.
    • Fergus as well. He clearly feels strong romantic love (though not necessarily sexual attraction) toward Dil even after the reveal, and his recurring dreams of Jody seem to have a homoerotic undertone. On the other hand, he was in a previous sexual relationship with Jude and presumably other women.
  • An Aesop: You can fall in romantic love without physical love.
  • Arc Words: The story of "The Scorpion and the Frog" near the beginning and at the very end.
  • Assassins Are Always Betrayed: Fergus knows that Jude wants him to kill a judge in broad daylight because it's suicidal, as shown when Peter impulsively does it himself because Fergus didn't show.
  • As the Good Book Says...:
    • When Jody wants Fergus to tell him a story (after hearing he's set to die), the only thing Fergus can come up with is to quote from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians ("When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things").
    • Also invoked when Dil visits Fergus in prison:
      Dil: "No greater love", as the man says.
  • Ate His Gun: Dil wants to, but Fergus won't let her.
  • Award-Bait Song: Averted. "The Crying Game" wasn't original, so it wasn't eligible for an Academy Award.
  • Badass Boast:
    Fergus: Have you ever picked up your teeth with broken fingers?
  • The Bartender: Col is a particularly humorous one, serving as a deadpan go-between for Fergus and Dil.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Dil feels this is her Fatal Flaw.
    Dil: See, I fix on anyone that's nice to me. Just the littlest bit nice and I'm yours. Just a little bit nice... and I'll be yours... Just don't kick me and I will be touched. Be nice to her and she'll be yours forever.
  • Berserk Button: Do not threaten or insult Dil in front of Fergus. See Badass Boast above.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Dil. She seldom shows it, but she can have a vicious attitude. She even contemplates killing Fergus before gunning down Jude.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Fergus is out of the IRA, but in jail. He and Dil seem to be together, though, even if it's a long distance relationship.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Fergus with Dil. Even more considering he's being pursued by racist IRA agents.
  • Bond One-Liner: "You didn't knock, honey."
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The assassination target is one for the IRA. When Fergus asks Jude who the target is, she shrugs and says "Some judge", though it is probably a case of Jude not knowing either, as the IRA works with multiple cells so no one knows who gives the orders or can be forced to give up names of IRA members.
  • Call-Back: Dil has Fergus on the bed, with a translucent drape she enters through during their first intimate scene. It's given a Dark Reprise at the climax when Fergus is tied to the bed, and Dil enters through the same drape — with a gun.
  • Captain Obvious: Fergus is pretty slow on the uptake regarding Dil and who knew about this and that and so on.
  • Chained to a Bed: Dil ties a sleeping Fergus to the bed with her black nylon tights.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A subtle one, when Jody forces Fergus to pull out his penis for him to urinate. Considering Jody's girlfriend, the deliberate Ho Yay comes back thematically when Fergus' idea of sexuality is tested.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Dil lights up one after her Unsettling Gender-Reveal and Fergus goes to vomit.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: The IRA wants Fergus to perform one of these. It's Suicide by Cop, and Fergus knows it.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: A tearjerking version, when Fergus sadly says to Jody's photo, "You should have stayed at home."
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Dave is obsessed with Dil. Initially he's violent and controlling towards her despite her standing up to him and telling him to get lost every time he bothers her. He tried to move in to her apartment despite her refusing to date him, and even had his clothes and pet goldfish there. Eventually he resorts to stalking and begging for her time once she meets and falls for Fergus. It bites Dil and Fergus in the ass when they assume that Dave is still stalking them and trying to run them over with a car when in reality it's Fergus' ex-IRA compatriots spying on him.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Peter antagonises Fergus after the latter gets too friendly with Jody, as there's a good chance they will need to execute him and the act will be easier if there's no rapport. When Fergus rejects this line of thinking and requests the burden of both executing the sentence and standing guard on Jody's final night, Peter calls him a good man and acquiesces.
  • Death by Irony: Jody has a chance to escape due to Fergus's reluctance to kill him (especially if it means shooting a man in the back), only to be run over by a British armored vehicle that was sent on a supposed mission to rescue him.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Jody is the equal main character of the film's first quarter, alongside Fergus, until he's killed off before a Time Skip.
  • Distressed Dude: Jody spends most of his screen time as a prisoner.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Jody bolts, Fergus chases him. Jody treats it as a kid's game, two boys chasing after each other, laughing as he does. Before he runs into the road and accidentally gets killed by an Army convoy.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Jude outlives Peter by a few minutes.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: A version of the story is related in the film to show people cannot go against their most basic nature. It's also given a Call-Back near the end, though subverted as Fergus' nature it turns out is quite the opposite from the viper's.
  • Femme Fatale: Jude, especially when she goes raven-haired.
    Jude: Fuck me, Fergus?... Am I to take that as a "no"?
  • Foreshadowing: Jody drops a ton of hints that Dil won't be what she seems.
    • Firstly he says that Jude is not his type, despite falling for her Honey Trap.
    • Second, he says Jude and women in general are cruel and untrustworthy, but that Dil is special and she's not like women in general.
    • When Jody needs to urinate, he asks Fergus to pull out his penis on account of his hands being bound, saying "it's just a piece of meat".
    • Finally Jody says about Dil: "Love her, whatever she is."
  • Friendly Enemy: It's strongly implied Fergus and Jody would have been bestest buddies had they not been IRA and British Army opponents.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Jody, Jude, and Dil. This is by no means an accident.
  • Genre Shift: From a fairly manly action movie to a sympathetic look at gender issues. It still retains some violence and political intrigue though.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Jude is murderous when she's blonde, but she's saintly compared to when she goes dark-haired.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Peter, a violent and angry member of the IRA.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    Dil: You're doing time for me. No greater love, as the man says. Wish you'd tell me why.
  • Honey Trap: The IRA gets Jody by sending one of these (played by Miranda Richardson) after him.
  • If I Do Not Return: Or rather "If they kill me". Jody's last will is for Fergus to find Dil out.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Implied to be the resolution for Dil and Fergus. Even after finding out that Dil is pre-op transgender, Fergus still loves her.
  • Important Haircut: One for Fergus (though done off-screen) when he reinvents himself as Jimmy. Another for Dil when she has to go into hiding.
  • Insistent Terminology: Dil continues to call Fergus loving terms after The Reveal, to his consternation.
  • Instant Turn-Off: Just when Fergus and Dil begin to make love, Fergus discovers Dil's secret.
  • Karma Houdini: Dil, since Fergus takes the rap for her.
  • Large Ham:
    • Forest Whitaker is clearly having a blast as Jody with a very bombastic and gregarious performance despite being the fact that heís being held hostage.
    • Also Miranda Richardson seems to be having the time of her life as Jude. Especially in the second half of the movie when she dyes her hair.
  • Lima Syndrome: Fergus develops a genuine affection for Jody, who he's holding prisoner.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: It's used for The Reveal. Fergus undresses Dil to have sex with her, discovering that she's a pre-op trans woman.
  • Manslaughter Provocation: This is probably what Fergus gets convicted of.
  • N-Word Privileges: Inverted by Jody, who says Ireland is the only place where people still openly call black people "nigger" to their face.
  • Nice Guy: Fergus, according to Jody. Beware the Nice Ones: He is a highly trained IRA operative, however, and fiercely protective of Dil.
  • No, You:
    Jody: Youíre going to have to kill me, arenít you? You canít just let me loose; itís not in your nature.
    Fergus: (offended) What do you know about my nature?
    Jody: Iím talking about your people, not you.
  • One Last Smoke: Jody, and he doesn't even smoke in the first place.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: Fergus has them about Jody.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Jude repeatedly calls Dil an "it" as she's being gunned down by the former.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "You didn't knock, honey." (BLAM!)
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Jude to Fergus.
    Fergus: No way. I'm out.
    Jude: (practically rolling her eyes) You're never out.
  • Rewatch Bonus: As William Goldman noted, knowing the twist going in actually improves the movie in some ways because you suddenly become aware of how carefully the track is being laid right up until The Reveal.
  • Right Under Their Noses: Jude is pretty pissed off at Fergus when she finds him, but she notes that he vanished really well, and hasn't outlived his usefulness to the IRA.
  • Scotireland: Northern Irish terrorist Fergus initially tells Londoner Dil that he is Scottish, and Dil appears to believe him. Possibly justified in that London has a wide variety of accents and Dil, being young and perhaps inexperienced, might not have known the difference. Also, the Scottish Highland accent sounds very similar to the Northern Irish accent due to the two having similar dialects of Gaelic. Scottish Highlanders were also among those who had gone there to settle.
  • Shout-Out: "The Scorpion and the Frog" parable is imported from Mr. Arkadin.
  • Shower of Angst: This famous post-revelation scene has been hearkened back to many times, most-famously spoofed in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Jordan's earlier films Mona Lisa and The Miracle, which are also about men (or in the case of The Miracle, a teenage boy) falling in love with women who turn out to be not what they seem.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Dave is this for Dil. Fergus warning him off is how their relationship begins.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The film opens with "When a Man Loves a Woman", and ends with "Stand By Your Man".
  • Sympathetic Murderer:
    • Dil kills Jude to protect Fergus and avenge Jody. Jude really had it coming.
    • Fergus as well, as it's implied he's killed for the IRA before, or at least served as an accessory to murder.
  • Taking the Heat: After Dil kills Jude—arguably in a fit of temporary insanity—Fergus tells her to leave the apartment. He watches her run across the back lot before wiping her fingerprints off the murder weapon, wrapping his own hand around the gun, and sitting down near Jude's body to wait for police.
  • Titled After the Song: Dave Berry's "The Crying Game", covered by Boy George.
  • Title Drop: The eponymous song is sung by Dil.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Dil's reaction after Fergus discovers she is pre-op transgender.
    Dil: You did know, did you? Oh my God.
  • Trans Relationship Troubles: Main character Fergus freaks out and nearly abandons Dil after realizing that she's a trans woman.
  • Trans Tribulations: In the famous twist, Dil is a pre-op trans woman. Fergus had no idea before she undressed.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Dil. The last thing she wants to be is a boy again. The only way Dil agrees is that Fergus insists that he's doing it for love; she still cries as her hair is cut.
    Fergus: Do anything for me?
    Dil: Anything... (Fergus starts to cut her hair) NO WAY.
    Fergus: You said anything.
    Dil: Girl has to draw the line somewhere.
    • To Dil's credit, she wears her newly shortened hair stylishly at the end. As always.
  • Unrequited Love: A major theme of the film.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: One of the most (in)famous examples in all of cinema. Fergus becomes violently ill and starts retching when he discovers that Dil has a penis.
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: Played with. When the IRA comes after Fergus again, he tries to get Dil to play along with this, since Jude has identified her as "the wee black chick". He puts her up in a hotel and cuts her hair, but his plan doesn't quite work out.
  • Western Terrorists: Fergus, Jude and Maguire are members of the Irish Republican Army. Their kidnapping of a British soldier kicks off the plot.
  • Wham Shot: Used for the infamous reveal. As Fergus begins to undress Dil, the camera drops down and shows Dil's penis. Even the music stops.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Fergus gets one of these when it's time to kill Jody. He can't bring himself to do it. There's an Ironic Echo when Dil wants to kill Fergus, but can't bring herself to do it, either.
  • Woman Scorned: Dil's hatred of Jude indicates a deeper jealousy. When Dil guns her down, she angrily says, "You was there, wasn't you? You used those tits and that ass to get him, didn't you?", then asks Fergus what she wore.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Dil, for all her bravado, has a very low self-esteem. Fergus's actions make her far more confident and self-assured, especially judging by the way she walks visiting him in jail.