Busi­ness is boom­ing

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

YOU WOULDN’T be out of line if you de­scribed the lat­est Ken Loach film as a thriller. Fol­low­ing an ex-squad­die as he in­ves­ti­gates the death of his pal in Iraq, Route Ir­ish fea­tures more nar­ra­tive tan­gles than a post-Water­gate con­spir­acy drama. Cars are bugged; men wear­ing suits lurk in door­ways. Yet there’s no mis­tak­ing the film’s parent­age. Loach’s in­vig­o­rat­ing Marx­ist anger burns through ev­ery frame.

Fea­tur­ing many flash­backs, Route Ir­ish con­cerns the killing of Frankie (comic John Bishop, who makes an ex­cel­lent straight man), a Bri­tish “pri­vate se­cu­rity con­sul­tant” – that’s a merce­nary to you, me and Noam Chom­sky – on the road out of Bagh­dad Air­port. Back home in Liver­pool, for­mer SAS man Fer­gus (Mark Wo­mack) be­gins prob­ing into the rel­e­vant se­cu­rity firm’s wor­ry­ing dis­re­gard for ev­ery­day moral­ity. He feels par­tic­u­larly guilty, be­cause he per­suaded his friend to take the lu­cra­tive job.

A video is dis­cov­ered on Frankie’s phone show­ing an en­tire Iraqi fam­ily be­ing mur­dered in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances. The lads’ in­creas­ingly sin­is­ter em­ploy­ers (they might as well be called Evil Cap­i­tal­ist Stooge Inc) of­fer an ex­pla­na­tion, but Mark is well on his way to un­cov­er­ing a de­spi­ca­ble plot.

Though the pub­lic­ity ma­te­rial sug­gests other­wise, Route Ir­ish takes place al­most en­tirely in Liver­pool. Us­ing skills learnt in the SAS, Fer­gus proves more than a match for his com­pla­cent en­e­mies.

Work­ing with writer Paul Laverty, now his most reg­u­lar col­lab­o­ra­tor, Loach lu­cidly demon­strates how pri­vate in­ter­ests have taken over the oc­cu­pa­tion of Iraq. If war is a busi­ness, then the harsh­est dic­tates of cap­i­tal­ism are the only rules worth ap­ply­ing.

If only the me­chan­ics of the pic­ture were as ef­fec­tive as its clear-headed po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ments. Too many of Fer­gus’s tech­niques seem roughly, in­con­gru­ously dragged from a bad James Bond novel. A faintly ridicu­lous wa­ter-board­ing se­quence pro­vokes more groans than wails of out­rage. Much of the di­a­logue would seem clunky in an in­stal­ment of The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous.

For all that, Route Ir­ish re­mains a mod­estly grip­ping slice of po­lit­i­cal melo­drama. And now more than ever, au­di­ences need a good metaphor­i­cal clip round the ear with a rolled up copy of the Morn­ing Star.

Read­ers search­ing for be­lated St Pa­trick’s Day fun should be aware that, the name of that thor­ough­fare aside, Route Ir­ish has noth­ing to do with the old coun­try. Un­less we’re al­lowed to claim Liver­pool. Are we? THERE IS, in hell, a spe­cial cor­ner set aside for use­less Bri­tish come­dies. It’s not that they’re so much worse than their Amer­i­can equiv­a­lents. They’re just bad in a very par­tic­u­lar way. Laid low by a hos­til­ity to am­bi­tion, hum­bled by con­spic­u­ous lack of glam­our, they wan­der grimly around the streets in dress­ing gowns clutch­ing cups of cool­ing tea. Look, it’s Black Ball, that crown-green bowl­ing thing with Paul Kaye. Hide – it’s the su­per­nat­u­rally dread­ful Three and Out. If we hang around too long, It’s aWon­der­ful Af­ter­life might turn up.

Let’s be fair. Chalet Girl is not the worst of the bunch. If The Boat That Rocked was pow­er­ing down in the street, you’d hap­pily – well, fairly hap­pily – es­cape in a car driven by Phil Traill’s only mod­estly ter­ri­ble film.

This is one of those films that has sprung from an idle ob­ser­va­tion on a mi­nor cul­tural phe­nom­e­non. “Hey, what about those girls who travel to Switzer­land to ser­vice chalets for rich skiers. There’s a good film in that. Isn’t there?” Well, there may well be. But Mr Traill has not di­rected it.

Con­firm­ing Bri­tish com­edy’s un­re­pen­tant ob­ses­sion with class, the film casts Felic­ity Jones as an or­di­nary girl who, hav­ing lost her job at the su­per­mar­ket, points Dad to the TV din­ners and makes for the lu­cra­tive slopes. Be­fore long, she has en­coun­tered the snob­bish co-worker who – as sure as Bill Nighy’s the louche boss – will even­tu­ally come to be a friend.

Be­fore that hap­pens, Felic­ity will have to fall in love with a posh bloke and, af­ter over­com­ing a fear of heights picked up dur­ing her mother’s fa­tal car crash, win the big prize at some hor­ri­ble down­hill event.

The ac­tors look un­com­fort­able, the script is en­tirely com­posed of clichés, and the pro­duc­tion de­sign would shame the mak­ers of a sofa com­mer­cial. Still, Bill Bai­ley is quite funny as Jones’s dad. So, for that alone, Chalet Girl sits one step above Kevin and Perry Go Large.

The down­ward slope: Felic­ity Jones

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