Four films in and director Mark O’Connor (Between The Canals, Stalker, King of the Travellers) has delivered the film he’s been threatening to, one that finally realises that early promise. Bursting with raw realism, Cardboard Gangsters full movie is a confident and visceral film.
While O’Connor has yet to shed his early Scorsese influences (there’s a Raging Bull wall-punching moment), and this outing veers into an Irish Boyz In The Hood territory, this crime drama is his most mature film yet. His Darndale here is a real lived-in environment (the story going as far as mentioning certain areas of the estate) and the tale unveils at breakneck pace, slowing down only when Connors and Wareing are found circling each other; while their romance is greatly opposite to the seediness of Dano’s sexual exploits, O’Connor implies that romantic love has no place in this world with their secret love affair builds up to nothing more than a snatched, rough session out the back of a club.
Jay (Connors), Dano (Walton), Cobbie (Ryan Lincoln) and Glenner (Paul Alwright) have been pals in Darndale ever since they were still young boys. Growing up to be small-time drug dealers, they make a move for the big leagues, switching from selling green to the locals to brown. However, heroin distribution in the area is controlled by the middle-aged Derra (Smallhorne), whose wife (Wareing) Jay has recently embarked on a flirty relationship with Jay. When Derra threatens to drag the foursome into his own gang or else, the boys are prepared to stand firm…
The writing is sharper with the bouncy dialogue ringing true (O’Connor shares writing credit with leading man Connors). The surrounding characters are not just wallpaper either but deepen our understanding of Jay and his life choices. His ma (Fiona Hewitt-Twamley)) in debt to Derra, Jason’s on-off girlfriend (Toni O’Rourke) falls pregnant, Dano’s problems with IRA-connected threaten to derail Jay’s under-the-radar plans, and Derra’s quiet but sociopathic son (Ciaran McCabe, Dollhouse) itching to prove his worth to his father’s gang.
Love/Hate actor Connors, three times the lead for O’Connor now, has gotten better with every film and delivers a commanding performance in his strongest turn to date. There’s enough going on in his eyes to suggest that his Jay is a thoughtful dealer torn between doing what he has to do to provide for his family and disgusted at how his life has turned out. Fionn Walton matches him in a role that shows his range – the introspective and melancholic Ciaran he played in Out of Here is a world away from Dano’s wiry, twitchy, heavily tattooed wannabe. He’s the loose cannon of the group and one that is most likely to offset Jay’s slow and steady plans to climb the ladder.
If there’s a fault it’s the reliance on a montage, usually a drug-addled party scene set to pumping hip hop or trance, which can get repetitive, but Cardboard Gangsters full movie is a top Irish crime drama.
As the local Mr. Big yells at them, they’re nothing rather than Cardboard Gangsters movie online – four young dudes who’ve been around together since childhood and who are now attempting to challenge the established underworld order.
Not that they see it that way. The lads in Cardboard Gangsters movie have been brought up in Darndale in Dublin, where a helicopter hovering overhead is an everyday occurrence, where no take away service will deliver and where the houses are identically faceless and grey. They want the money, the bling, the drugs and the women – and dealing drugs is their only option.
For their de facto leader, Jay (John Connors), the stakes are higher and more personal. His mother is knee deep in debt – to the crime lord, of course. His girlfriend is pregnant and his infatuation with an older married woman is never going to stay under wraps for long. Given her connections, it’s not going to end well either. All of which sounds familiar. Because it is. The film cherry picks plot lines from a number of other crime movies, mixes them together, changes the setting to Dublin and, hey presto! a winner at the Irish box office is born, the highest grossing Irish film of the year there so far.
It’s difficult to get away from all that familiarity. The punchy, dynamic touch nods in the direction of Danny Boyle and Trainspotting, still it’s that intensity that spurs the storyline along and keeps you anticipated. That, and the performances, especially from the four young actors at the centre of the action. At the outset, it’s hard to tell who’s the main man of the group: turns out, it is the quiet one, Jay, and John Connors gives a thoughtful performance, digging deeper into his character’s more brutal aspect and warped sense of loyalty as the action carries on. His shots with Fionna Twamley Hewitt as his mother are exceptionally heartfelt: he lies to her and she realizes it, but when he speaks the truth, she refuses to accept it. Because she knows the consequences of his actions will be grim.
There’s good support, too, from former EastEnder Kierston Wareing as the girl he can’t resist and Jimmy Smallhorne as her spouse, Derra, who’s willing to protect his “business” from the young upstarts. All behind an aura of middle class respectability and a modern detached property with a “Bless This House” plaque above the door knocker.
Cardboard Gangsters movie is well performed and superbly directed, but desperately needs a story with more invention. Setting a well-used storyline in a different location simply isn’t enough. Director Mark O’Connor, who wrote the script with Connors, clearly knows how to get the best from his cast and has a knack for pace coupled with ferocity. Now all he needs is a screenplay to match.