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DUBLIN 2020

Review: Broken Law

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- Paddy Slattery's debut feature is an excellent, entertaining flick that organically combines action, comedy, drama and romance

Review: Broken Law
Graham Earley (left) and Tristan Heanue in Broken Law

The much-anticipated world premiere of Paddy Slattery's debut feature, Broken Law [+see also:
trailer
interview: Paddy Slattery
film profile
]
, closed the third day of this year's Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. The flick, previously known as Let Your Guard Down and The Broken Law of Attraction, required about ten years to be completed and was made on a shoestring budget. In the meantime, Slattery worked as a producer and directed some shorts, such as Sojourn (2014), Runner (2012) and The Moment (2010).

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The story of Broken Law, penned by the director himself, is set in Dublin and centres on two estranged brothers on opposite sides of the law: Joe (Graham Earley) and David Connolly (Tristan Heanue). The former is an ex-convict who seems to be heading down another badly chosen, dangerous path, while the second is an honest, highly respected police officer who is following in his late father's footsteps.

During the first sequence, we come to understand that Joe has just been released. Two of his former partners in crime are ready to bring him “back to action”. The two thugs, Wallace (John Connors) and Pete (Ryan Lincoln), decide to involve him in a robbery at a local credit centre. The heist is then casually foiled by David, who is off duty and applying for a loan at the institute at the time.

It is striking to see how Slattery's flick opens like a rather light-hearted comedy and gradually brings in elements from other genres, evolving into a family drama, with a romantic subplot involving young clerk Amia McNamara (the talented Gemma-Leah Deveraux) and some action sequences. Commendably, the process of this transformation is orchestrated organically and does not compromise the quality of the film (the risk of creating a chaotic, unpleasant pastiche is always just around the corner). In Broken Law, however, this plurality of genres is actually its main strength. To further clarify, the initial ironic tone does not disappear, but somehow becomes more rarefied, in line with the dramatic twists and turns in the story. Throughout the tale, all of the characters coherently grow a “new skin” and will be forced to confront their previous lifestyles and values.

Here, it is difficult to focus on the quality of just a few actors' performances. The entire cast is well oiled, and all of the main roles are multilayered, surprising and credible. It is important, though, to highlight the superb work of the director in building the inner conflicts of Heanue and Earley as they play these two estranged brothers, and the development of Connors' role, as he transforms his initial character (a spirited, friendly partner in crime) into a ruthless, violent gangster. Furthermore, the dialogues are fresh and very realistic, and contribute to increasing the lightning-fast pace of the narration. Other positive words must be said about the film's cinematography (courtesy of Luxembourg's Narayan Van Maele), expertly dominated by gloomy shades and colours, and effective in depicting suburban life in the Irish capital. Finally, still more kudos should go to Michael Fleming's score, which is highly emotional and always fitting for the scene.

All in all, Slattery's debut is a must-see, excellent work, and will hopefully gain some well-deserved recognition both in Ireland and abroad.

Broken Law was produced by Ireland’s Failsafe Films and True Line Films. Break Out Pictures is in charge of its distribution. The film will hit Irish cinemas this summer.

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