Screen Reviews

I Went Down

directed by Paddy Breathnach

An excellent gangster film Irish-style, I Went Down does a number on the subconscious as it takes off on several stereotypes of organized crime and busts them into smithereens.

Director Paddy Breathnach doesn’t have to choose, so he doesn’t. Some moments make their point in light-as-a-feather fashion, as others bludgeon the viewer with their layered meanings.

This film was a hit at the Sundance film festival, and uses a screenplay by Conor McPherson. Git (played with verve by Peter McDonald) comes out of prison, a rap he’s taken for his father, as the pair leave a pub one night and come across some hoodlums smashing and robbing an electronics store and just “had to have a video (recorder).”

He’s lost the girl he was set to marry, and for reasons that remain cloudy, Git has to complete an underworld mission for crime boss Tom French in order to square things.

So hapless young Git heads straight into trouble, a kidnapping in which he becomes partnered with Bunny, a rival thug.

From the first, Git’s innocence charms us. As he nurses a bent nose, Bunny describes how to use the revolver he lends Git. “You’ve got a gun, use it to your advantage,” explains Bunny: Make loud, wild threats, “and make them believe you’re fucked up enough to use it.”

The pair commit the snatch in a comedy of errors, miraculously coming out alive from a safe house where the victim’s being held by a rival gang. Whatever can go wrong does, as they take into custody the world’s most odiously talkative hostage, Frank Grogan, B.A.

Grogan is thrown into the trunk of the car with a load of manure, “trussed up like a turkey,” and generally gets his dignity violated. Yet the hostage continues to weave tales of regret and recrimination. “I taught them fuckin’ fuckers how to read,” says Grogan of the Tom French gang. Grogan’s pride in his college degree takes on added import as he becomes the butt of his captors’ cutting humor. He also reveals one reason his life may be in danger even as he’s to be delivered to French’s “representative.” And it’s a good one.

This comedy of errors continues as the kidnappers traverse the foggy peat bogs in confusion and indecision. Excellent photography accents the characterizations as the trio travel breathtakingly scenic Ireland.

As Bunny and Git overcome their extreme animosity toward each other, they focus their rage on the outlandish behavior of their hostage, then on the blackheartedness of their employer, Mr. French.

A sexual interlude at a hotel with girls Git and Bunny meet in the disco leads to a nearly disastrous cock-up regarding their captive and their own mortality becomes an issue.

In the denouement of this black comedy, the two take on the big dilemma: Money, power, life, death, all come into play. Morality and the choices made to back it up become poignant plot twists.

Excellent work comes from the other actors, Brendan Gleeson of The Butcher Boy, Tony Doyle (Circle of Friends), and Peter Caffrey, as well as David Milnot. This in addition to McDonald’s career-making performance.

One of the best films out of the U.K. this year, I Went Down takes us on a wild ride without losing sight of the personal and very affecting traits and foibles of its characters. Very rewarding, not just by half.

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