Director: Peter Foott
Starring: Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, Dominic McHale, P.J. Gallagher, Shane Casey
Written by: Peter Foott
Running Time: 83 mins
Release date: 13th January 2017
It is always a pleasure when you discover a film that you know very little about, that has a title that doesn’t really inspire or invite and yet, it turns out to be a little gem. The Young Offenders is one of those films. A bizarre hybrid of Trainspotting, The Inbetweeners and the Ealing Comedies, this low-budget Irish comedy has more laughs than most Hollywood movies and enough charm to see it through, even if the final act is a little too predictable.
Conor and Jack are school friends who may not be the brightest sparks in the town. Conor works with his mum on a fish stall while Jack steals bikes with the mask of one of the local thugs, being chased by a dedicated police officer. When news breaks that a large stash of cocaine has been discovered off the coast of Cork, Conor and Jack see this as their way to make some big money very quickly. On two stolen bikes, they head off to the bay, on the way being pursued by the police as well as having to make some serious decisions, something they find very difficult to do.
Writer and director Peter Foott’s debut feature is crammed with deliciously comic set pieces and some very funny dialogue, giving room for his main actors to improvise which helps in their character developments. He also uses the beautiful scenery of Ireland as a wonderful backdrop for these two incompetents who have more to offer than just your usual dumb and dumber style creations.
Behind the ill-advised decisions that Conor and Jack make, is a big fat beating heart, where these two boys have found each other for many more reasons than their lack of intelligence. This is Foott’s real trump card. The back stories of these two lads are somewhat touching and you find yourself forgiving them. Jack’s is particularly poignant, a boy whose father has turned to drink after the death of his mother. These are lingered upon but given enough time for you to have a greater understanding of Jack’s needs.
Then there’s the tone of the film. Sometimes gentle and whimsical, with a modern variation of Whiskey Galore, sometimes rude but never offensive, you follow these young lads as they dream of having better lives, only to know that it isn’t going to happen, and while the song “Lucky Man” plays as the boys, thinking they have finally found a way to escape, not knowing the real truth of the matter (I won’t spoil it for you but it’s funny and heartbreaking at the same time) you can see that this is the sum total of their lives and will possibly be for the rest of it.
The film does seem to get desperate when they are followed by a disgruntled drug dealer with a nail gun but that can be forgiven with a very satisfying ending that will make you say to yourself “Yes, I’m happy with that!”.
The two leads, Alex Murphy and Chris Walley, are terrific. They have plenty of cheek and charm and the scenes where they are arguing or just gentle banter are hilarious. The opening, in which the boys discuss life with money, really sets the tone brilliantly and I could have spent longer with these two. A special mention must go to Hilary Rose as Conor’s long-suffering mother, Mairead, a quietly confident comic turn.
You might find it hard to track down The young Offenders in the cinema (Very limited release but readily available on streaming sites for a small fee) but it’s worth checking out. you won’t be disappointed. if you like your comedy quirky, sometimes surreal but surprisingly touching in places then this will do the job nicely.