'The Young Offenders' review
This post was originally published on the Britflicks website on 3rd March 2017.
Starring: Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hillary Rose, Dominic McHale, PJ Gallagher.
Writer & Director: Peter Foott
As an indie mix of Dumb and Dumber and Bonnie and Clyde, Irish crime comedy The Young Offenders is a warm, hilarious, and occasionally touching treat. It follows hapless teens Conor and Jock on a farcical treasure hunt to west Cork, in search of a washed up cocaine shipment. Pursued by police, drug dealers, and a disgruntled local thug, their friendship is put to the test in this enjoyable feature debut from writer/director Peter Foott. Deftly aping classic chase-movie and buddy-comedy tropes, the film gives them their own uniquely sardonic Corkonian spin.
As ‘Paper Planes’ by M.I.A. soundtracks the opening titles, a steadicam zipping through Cork’s English Market, the bicycle chase scene is intercut with a debate on chicken kievs. Hilariously off-beat and technically impressive, it’s clear from the off that Foott has big ambitions.
He sprinkles movie references throughout, the film touching on No Country For Old Men, Heat, and Serpico - even borrowing Goodfellas’ knowing voiceover to bookend the movie. Inspiration comes too from Danny Boyle’s frenetic soundtrack tastes, and Guy Ritchie’s slow-motion, impressively replicated here on a smaller-scale.
One of the film’s most ingenious homages is Jock's attempts to recreate Heat. Confronting the Garda detective chasing him in a rural Irish cafe. Wearing a plastic rubber mask and hoodie. It’s a great character beat, and uproariously funny. Elsewhere, the fast cuts, slow-motion zooms and freezes, and big, bold music cues give west Cork a Hollywood sheen and The Young Offenders a unique visual style.
Ireland’s never looked so colourful.
All that style would mean nothing if not for its two main characters, Jock (Walley) and Conor (Murphy). In these talent young newcomers, the film’s found a classic screen pairing. Brainless but loveable, they spend their time debating the role of the founding ‘Four Fathers’, failing to choke a chicken (literally and figuratively), and playing out a heartfelt bromance. The film’s plot clatters along at a merry pace, occasionally pausing to showcase the characters’ effortless chemistry. It also takes care to give them a little more depth, and more than just comic relief.
This stellar chemistry helps the movie through some of its weaker moments. A subplot involving Jock’s alcoholic father seems cliche, and an odd diversion with an old farmer serve as distractions and add little to the film. At times, the techno-soundtracked montages grates, and some TV-doc style touches betray the film’s lo-fi roots. However, these are minor quibbles, easily set aside when the characters are this much fun to spend time with.
For a feel-good, fun caper movie, The Young Offenders swaggers out of left-field, offering enough imaginative comedy to offset its sometimes clumsy attempts at drama. The movie’s humour is broad, and while there are some misses, the ratio’s quite strong. Aiming as much for the movie geeks (a Coen-referencing nail gun purchase) as the local crowd (references to ‘jammy rags’, and the joys of Cork slang), the sheer breadth of humour should ensure a wide audience.
It’s a film bursting with ideas, and even if some of them don’t always take, you’re swept along by the wit, charm, and warmth of the whole thing. It feels home-made, a labour of love, and something that’s crying out for a larger fan-base. Just like another Irish sleeper crime hit, 2003’s Intermission, this will surely be the start of great things for all involved.