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Let’s pick up what we left off from the last entry with our part 2 of Cardboard Gangsters.
The Gang of Four
Failure of plot happen with the four. They portray types frequently visited. Jay is the quiet leader and decisive one. He acts after a sharp intake of nitrate polluted air when crucial decisions have to be made. His reactions always are swift. There is his sidekick, Dano – Fionn Walton, who is a Jay-wannabe but lacks the smarts and has an overinflated idea of his strength and animal logistics.
To that pairing add one other pair with firstly, coloured native Dubliner, (John Dalesanndro?) who is all Dub and a well rounded good natured citizen with his identity fully formed but with the continual racist deflection others make of his colour ever present.
His side kick is an ordinary kid still dreaming of being a rock star – Edge/Bono/Damien Dempsey (whose songs permeate and add very very strong messages to hang the plot and narrative on) while being a rapper with an attitude in the reincarnation of Snoop dog? as Joyce of the Street reborn on the Northside. Music is their escape too. It is no less than another songwriter, Paul Alwright.
These two are more passive and get in over there heads when the plan Jay concocts to take over all the heavy drug dealing in Darndale gathers pace. He intends to run rings round them and take over under the noses of two sets of dealers, one a long in the tooth – Derra Murphy, so implausible as an active Gangster not to have been wiped out by this stage – who has been doing it for 30 years non stop. Around him are a narcissistic bunch of fellow delusional hoods and pastiche Gangsters like something out of the Sopranos junior prom.
The other dealer of importance he has to float off in a boat is a Northern Irish itinerant family with a hierarchy also base on the Sopranos but with an implausible young gobby boy whose resemblance in demeanour is stolen from the kid in ’71. the one who bad mouths the army. It is a bit hard to swallow due to it being delivered as one dimension bites.There is no slack or nuance.
There is of the first mentioned old timer Gangster, Derra a real wife, Gangsters Moll, Kim played with brass by Keirston Waring of Eastenders and her hang out Ricky from The Office. who is put into situations which are far too dangerous in reality to be convincing. Everyone is an informer and it is a very degrading and bedraggled performance by a woman who ticks all the boxes and convinces you of her emotional harm and physical fragility before the inevitable happens.
The main dealer gets on his horse. His son Sean is a go-between on the streets and his life is also to be entangled in this world as his figurehead, mentor father is the wild old man Jimmy Smallhotne as Derra Murphy. Not a nice guy when riled.
Screw ups, Redemption, Revelations
Jay has hit the rails in this whole new environment of his own making. At 26 he has not modified his survival instinct to accept it could all end very badly. Why is this seen as possible in a guy as smart as him? He has an alternate life in a relationship with Sarah played by Toni O’Rourke, again an outstanding believable piece of acting and he has a way towards a happier life but he does see it getting out of shape in screwing it up.
What I get is a story of redemption appearing. In the void made by his father he sees it as a probable route out of the unbearable grief of losing his mentor – not great on that score – and feels obliged to do it for the sake of his mothers security. Into this path of a future with a cause and a faith in it being the right thing he sets up scenarios which is the embodiment of the phrase ‘Take back what’s ours.’ This is a task he takes on like the universal soldier without fear or idea of wrongness. He is oblivious and a totally different person. The violence of the film is ramped up and the heat is furious as the story moves towards its sorry end.
The twists, plots, betrayals, double crosses are thrown out in every direction and within it is framed Jays realisation of his fate and his journey. It is very audacious way to take on a story which is part of the everyday practically and make it new with edge and believability but it falls down by following – and this is a first go at feature length writing as a collaboration of O’Connors and Connor so it bodes well for more nuances and less predictable tropes.
I was reading about the Cartel Wives, a true story written by two sisters married to twins and Mexicos biggest drug dealers into Chicago and much of America and they played the stereo types but we’re in a different league. There is also the Matthew McConagaghy Dallas Buyers Club which wrote an entirely weird and contemporary wildfire take on drug dealing Texas style which I thought superb and a whole Club of emotions entangled in a modern world.
I have to bite into my critical viewpoint and not become over run with sentiment. Dublin, Ireland deserves a movie like this, just to lift the lid off ordinary life in the shameful presence of the drugs trade exploiting the wracked minds and medically uncared for addicts and the outpouring of huge societal problems accumulating year after year. The movie goes into a story partly based on criminality which even since it was made – 2016 – is on an unrelenting course of spiraling brutality. From previous eras these stories also come into day to day conversation and filmmakers such as Mark O’Connor see the task of their own driving force the need to put onto screens in startling effective realistic storylines something of the view outside the cinema or home. King of the Travelers became an opus in real story progressed film narrative.
This too is neither sentimental, glorified, sexed up, hyperrealised but a searching account without answers as none come forward. Ever. The account is full of bloody and messy translations of human fortune delivering a grueling watchable unfolding perspective of a life in Darndale. It takes you into places beyond the limits its trope ridden script – it follows a formula without jettisoning the usual gangster movie traits for something extraordinary – which it is in proximity of without delivering.
The scenes are beautifully framed in tracking without settling but continuing apace when things get serious, by the wide frame and flowing cinematography of Michael Lavelle and Directorship of Mark O’Connor’s strength of compressive – no out but violent immmersion. While it has imperfections in several ways it is an opening of the perspective never properly taken before as Cinema material.
John Connors could play a priest or an American suited and booted crooked Businessman or a junkie Coach of a Football team or even I thought. – well your imagination will be pushed to the limit as this is pulled out of the fire by performances heart felt and convincing in the deepest way effecting.