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The Young Offenders

The Young Offenders

Released 16 September 2016
Director Peter Foott

Hilary Rose, Chris Walley, Ciaran Birmingham, Alex Murphy, Dominic MacHale
Writer(s) Peter Foott
Producer(s) Peter Foott, Julie Ryan
Origin Ireland
Running Time  
Genre Comedy
Rating 15A

The Rebel County.

It's quite fun to be the underdog. Although the rewards are few and far between, the successes are that much sweeter when they occur. The Irish film industry is a case in point; despite coasting along on our centuries old reputation as the land of saints and scholars, our film culture is patchy at best. Consequently, I approach Irish films with extreme caution and am delighted when a gem slips through the net. The Young Offenders is one such gem. Though certainly not without its faults (some of them truly glaring), it is the definition of a pleasant surprise to a cynical Irish filmgoer.

The story is set in Cork city, where fifteen year old pals Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley) cause mischief for the local Gardai and daydream about escaping their difficult homelives. When a boat carrying bales of cocaine is shipwrecked off the coast of Cork, the boys get on their bikes in the hope of finding the one bale that remains unfound. They travel across the county pursued relentlessly by local cop Healy (Dominic HacHale).

It's a fun conceit based on a true story and plays out like a Corkonian Dumb and Dumber. The two young actors are the real treat here – they are silly but likeable and bounce off each other to great effect. To his credit, writer/director Peter Foott has written dialogue that sounds utterly believable coming from the mouths of these adolescents – a feat that is easier said than done for a writer. As the film speeds along with the duo, the laughs are relatively plentiful.

As to the glaring faults I mentioned earlier, the most egregious is in the performance of PJ Gallagher as a physically disabled drug dealer. As Gallagher plodded along in corrective shoes, his hand twisted by his side, I felt distinctly uncomfortable. The film as a whole is not above cheap laughs (and there's nothing wrong with that) but using physical disability as a medium for lazy slapstick feels a little too cheap for my liking.

Aside from this completely wrong-footed decision, the film is great fun and the two leading men should, by rights, go places. Peter Foott should also excel, if he can just reign in his taste for the tasteless.

- Linda O'Brien