Director: Peter Foott
Cast: Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, Dominic MacHale, P.J. Gallagher, Shane Casey
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This hilarious debut feature from writer-director Peter Foott proved a huge hit in its native Ireland, taking over €800,000 and picking up the joint Best Irish Feature award at the Galway Film Fleadh. It’s not hard to see why: in addition to marking out Foote as a serious talent to watch, it also features a terrific pair of comic debuts from young lead actors Alex Murphy and Chris Walley.
Inspired by Ireland’s biggest cocaine seizure of €440m off the coast of western Cork in 2007, the film centres on best buddies Jock Murphy (Walley) and Connor MacSweeney (Murphy), a pair of dim-witted teenagers who decide it would be a really good idea to steal some bikes and cycle to the coast, after they hear that a bale of cocaine has gone missing from the seizure and has likely washed up on the shore.
Needless to say, nothing goes entirely to plan, and the pair soon find themselves pursued by a club-footed drug dealer (P.J. Gallagher), a local thug (Shane Casey) and a dogged local policeman (Dominic MacHale), who has placed a tracking device on one of the bikes.
The comic chemistry between Murphy and Walley is hugely entertaining, so much so that you sincerely hope they find a way to work together again in the future. Their dynamic is both familiar and oddly touching – Connor (who also narrates the film) looks up to Jock (they even dress alike, as revealed in one of several delightful sight gags) and is the slightly more sensible one, while Jock continually tries to involve Connor in his madcap schemes and is viewed as a bad influence by Connor’s fishmonger mother (Hilary Rose), who baits him with lines like “They call that a sucker fish – that’ll be your nickname in prison”.
Foote keeps things moving at a cracking pace, ensuring that every scene has a decent laugh. There are also a number of nicely integrated film references – the cop’s persistence is treated like the posse hunting Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, while Connor has a traumatic encounter with a chicken that is strongly reminiscent of Withnail & I. Paddy Jordan’s attractively sunny cinematography belies the film’s presumably low budget (and won’t do Cork’s tourist trade any harm either) and there’s a pleasingly eclectic soundtrack that, in a nice show of local pride, manages to find room for Where’s Me Jumper?, the 1992 hit from Cork-based band Sultans of Ping F.C.
However, the most satisfying element of the film is the cleverly constructed screenplay, which seems deceptively chaotic on the surface, but nonetheless takes care to pay off every minor detail (such as Connor’s expressed preference for chicken dinners, or Jock’s various underwear problems) to winning effect. Foote also has a strong sense of screwball comedy structure, building to a farce-like climax where all the players converge in Mrs MacSweeney’s kitchen for a showdown. This is a smartly written, brilliantly acted and very funny comedy that’s well worth seeking out.
The Young Offenders is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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