The Southern Star's resident film buff Dylan Mangan is revisiting some classic films that were set in or are heavily influenced by the great county of Cork. So far we’ve covered The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Michael Collins and War of the Buttons – this week we turn to The Young Offenders (2016) directed by Peter Foott.
The best thing about The Young Offenders is that it almost feels like it could actually happen.
Set in Cork city and West Cork, The Young Offenders is a fun and funny story of two northside teenagers who try to get-rich-quick after a bale of cocaine worth up to €7 million is lost when a drug-trafficking ship capsizes near Mizen Head.
Their genius plan? Steal some bikes, cycle down, pick up some drugs, cycle home, and sell them.
Google maps says it would take about 6 hours to cycle from the city down to Barleycove, or a 12 hour round trip. Google maps also probably thinks you’re the average cyclist and not a pair of generally incompetent, chain-smoking 16-year-olds.
But these 16-year-olds are perhaps less incompetent than they first seem, and often appear to be the adults in a room full of children once the film gets going.
Jock (Chris Walley) and Conor (Alex Murphy) are the two best friends who decide to make the pilgrimage down west, and both carry the film on their young shoulders.
Their performances toe the line between farcical and believable, even as events become more and more ridiculous. In lesser hands, the film could have veered towards a level of slapstick which would quickly become tiresome.
Instead, the director manages to coax comedic moments out of each scene – one highlight involving Jock and Conor’s as they attempt to kill a chicken for dinner.
‘It reminds me a little bit of me,’ Conor says. ‘The way it’s staring, sort of a confused look like it doesn’t really know what’s going on half the time.’
That confused look is part of what makes the film great – and it remains plastered across Conor’s face throughout.
The lads’ nemesis is Sergeant Healy (Dominic McHale), who is obsessed with catching Jock, a notorious bike thief in the city. While other guards are busy busting drug dealers or locking up murderers, Healy is furiously pedalling his way down to West Cork in pursuit of the lads.
McHale and Shane Casey (who plays the infamous Billy Murphy) are among a brilliant supporting cast who add colour and humour to an already colourful and humorous film. The ridiculousness of their characters is only matched by how seriously they take themselves - and it’s in that seriousness that the comedy lies.
It’s not all fun and games – the film does touch on why two young men like Conor and Jock would act the way they do, and does so with a deft touch. They both faced tough upbringings which explain their characters well.
On a tiny budget of €50,000 Peter Foott and co created one of modern Ireland’s best comedies, which spawned an award-winning TV show and has launched the career of Olivier award-winning Chris Walley, who seems set for stardom.
Not many Cork films can say that – and not many Cork films have got me thinking about how quickly I’d cycle to Mizen Head and back.