Dirty old town

It’s St Pa­trick’s Day as ex­pe­ri­enced by three Dublin lowlifes in this im­pres­sively gritty, bang-on crime drama, writes Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

JUST WHEN we thought we were all ca­pered out, along comes Mark O’Con­nor’s rough-hewn, en­er­getic ur­ban thriller to woo us back into the pic­ture house.

Set against Dublin’s less salu­bri­ous bor­oughs, Be­tween the Canals pro­vides a com­mend­able an­ti­dote to tra­di­tional cin­e­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of St Pa­trick’s Day. Don’t ex­pect shenani­gans and shil­le­laghs; the only pad­dy­whack­ery here oc­curs be­tween war­ring lowlifes.

Liam (Dan Hy­land) has had enough of small­time drug deals and scuf­fles. He just wants to join the straight world, find gain­ful em­ploy­ment as an elec­tri­cian and set­tle down with his girl­friend and young son. His mate Dots (Peter Coonan), a cruis­ing-for-a-bruis­ing head­case, has other ideas. Just as Liam wants out, Dots wants fur­ther in, an am­bi­tion we soon dis­cover is nei­ther re­al­is­tic nor pru­dent. Lowly junkie Scratch­card (Stephen Jones), mean­while, just wants his next fix.

The tri­umvi­rate’s over­lap­ping des­tinies, played out as one event­ful St Pa­trick’s Day ruckus, form the spine of this freeform in­ner-city bal­lad. Pic­ture Richard Lin­klater’s Slacker af­ter a rowdy week­end with Shane McGowan and you’re al­most there.

Shot over 12 days us­ing non-pro­fes­sional ac­tors and a ca­bal of af­ter­school pro­grammes and var­i­ous ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties (singer­song­writer Damien Dempsey pro­vides the only fa­mous face), the pro­duc­tion achieves an im­pres­sive de­gree of vérité. This is the Dublin of pool-halls and sweary quips and pubs with plas­tic chairs.

This is a Dublin we recog­nise and put up with. It bears only a vague re­sem­blance to the sleek, su­per­fi­cial cap­i­tal de­picted in Ir­ish films dur­ing the boom years. The movie met­ro­sex­u­als liv­ing in glass and fin­ished steel apart­ments have been and gone. But Sum­mer­hill and Sher­riff Street, ad­dresses where much of O’Con­nor’s film un­folds, are un­changed.

None of which is to sug­gest we’re in Com­mit­ments ter­ri­tory. Be­tween the Canals of­fers plenty of hu­mour and may­hem with­out ro­man­ti­cis­ing its sub­jects and en­vi­rons. It’s wisely left to the film’s au­then­tic di­a­logue and gritty pre­sen­ta­tion to pro­vide the po­etry.

We look for­ward to the wri­ter­di­rec­tor’s sopho­more ef­fort – a feud drama set in Ire­land’s trav­el­ling com­mu­ni­ties – with cheer­lead­ing para­pher­na­lia at the ready.

Spin the Dots: Peter Coonan in Be­tween the Canals

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