THE YOUNG OFFENDERS (Ireland/15A/84mins)
Directed by Peter Foott. Starring Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, PJ Gallagher, Dominic MacHale
THE PLOT: In 2007, 61 bales of cocaine were washed into the sea off the coast of Cork. 15 year olds Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley) dream of a better life, away from stealing bikes in Cork City and getting chased by local police, so when they hear that each bale of cocaine floating in the sea is work €7 million, they steal bikes and head off on the trip of their lives.
THE VERDICT: Inspired by real events, ‘The Young Offenders’ is an over the top dream of a movie, starring two young actors whose chemistry together in screen feels real and infectious, as well as a cast of characters that will be instantly recognisable to Irish audiences.
Alex Murphy and Chris Walley lead the cast as the wannabe young offenders of the title. The two characters – Conor and Jock – are not only best friends, but they egg each other on as they desperately try to make better lives for themselves through petty crimes. The two are opportunistic but charming, and their natural feeling relationship is lovely to watch on screen, even as they tease one another, jokingly fight and generally behave as though they don’t like each other; it’s the Irish way. These two are backed up by Hilary Rose as Conor’s mother Mairead, PJ Gallagher as a man hell bent on vengeance and Dominick MacHale as tenacious local Garda Healy.
Peter Foott’s screenplay takes its inspiration from true events, then pits two fictional characters against the truth. The fact that people flocked to Cork to try and fish bales of cocaine out of the sea is not necessarily true, but definitely could be, and this is where the screenplay not only gets its charm, but also its outlandishness. The pacing of the film is strong for the most part, although the final act of the film – after the road movie portion of the film is over – feels as though it runs out of energy. The laughs are there in the film, but are rather intermittently spaced, and a lot of them seem to come from scenes that feel improvised rather than deftly scripted.
As director, Foott makes the film a sundrenched caper – unusual for Irish film in more than one way – and it is a joy to spend time with these two foul mouthed wannabe criminals as they are chased all over County Cork by a tenacious cop determined to catch them for petty theft, without realising what they are actually on the road for. The film is well paced for the most part, but the over the top final act and some dodgy acting from comedian PJ Gallagher and a rogue nail gun ups the ante in almost the wrong way.
In all, ‘The Young Offenders’ is a quirky comedy with plenty of heart, but it falls apart slightly in the final act, the laughs are paced through the film but it struggles through some messy pacing. It is a delight to spend time with Conor and Jock – the two tearaways at the heart of the film – and it is clear that these are two young actors on the rise.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    The Young Offenders is a knockabout Irish comedy from Cork which marks the feature debut of Peter Foott. ‘Inspired by true events’, the film is set in 2007, just after the discovery of €440m in cocaine off the Cork coast – the biggest ever drugs seizure in Europe.

    Conor (Alex Murphy) is a teenager who lives with his mum Mairead (Hilary Rose). He’s not too bright and neither is his best mate Jock (Chris Walley). Jock is something of a hoodlum, as he goes around the city in a mask posing as a noted hoodlum and stealing bikes in the process. Garda Healy (Dominic MacHale) is determined to bust him once and for all. The two boyos hatch a plan to head to the coast and nick a missing bale of cocaine from the huge discovery off the coast, hopefully netting €7m in the process. They set off on a journey through the countryside. Unknown to them, Garda Healy is tracking them…

    The Young Offenders is light on plot and plentiful of laughs. It’s an uneasy balancing act, but Foott just about pulls it off. The most obvious comparison here is Adam And Paul, but with a teenage Corkonian twist. It’s not quite as deep or as soul-searching as that film, instead relying on its thickhead characters and somewhat unlikely scenarios to drive the story forward. The two boyos in the film may come across as dodgy, but there’s a likeability to them which makes you root for them. Murphy and Walley do good work here establishing the laid-back rapport between the characters. Any scenes between them and the exasperated Rose are worth the price of admission alone.

    That said though, it may not quite deserve all the accolades it’s getting from Irish critics (who tend to be a little soft on Irish films anyway). The plot is paper-thin, to the point where it relies more on sudden circumstances and character charms to paper over the cracks in the story. There’s barely enough plot here to fill 83 minutes and obvious filler material is evident – like the man with the nailgun that the two boyos encounter later on. A more obvious villain was already there earlier on, but only comes into play towards the end.

    That said though, there are some great laughs here – the highlight being an attempt at recreating a famous scene from Heat. These boyos wouldn’t know what to do if they felt the heat coming around the corner. The humour might be more relevant in Cork, but it still works outside the rebel county. The Young Offenders has some decent laughs and good performances from the leads, but it’s nothing special. If anything, it’s really rather sweet. ***

  • emerb

    Admittedly I hadn’t high hopes for “Young Offenders”, especially after seeing the posters – two young hooligans committing crimes in Cork city did not sound like my type of “comedic” entertainment. However, when I heard that Graham Norton tweeted that it was very funny, I just had to see it and he was dead right – it is funny, very funny indeed. The debut movie from director Peter Foott’s, it is
    loosely based around a true event. It was inspired by Ireland’s biggest cocaine seizure of €440 million off the coast of Cork back in 2007. Foott opens the movie with a news report about the cocaine seizure but after that, the movie dramatically changes course.

    The story is centred on two teenage misfits, Jock and Conor from inner city Cork (new talents Alex Murphy and Chris Walley). At a loose end, they pass their days stealing bikes, playing pranks and messing around. One day they hear that a bail of cocaine worth millions of dollars has gone missing in the sea somewhere off the coast of Cork, and dozens of people are flocking to the scene in search of it. Apparently there are 61 bales of cocaine, each worth €7m which are lost out in the water somewhere. They immediately decide that this is a golden opportunity to become instantly rich and so begins their escapade to find the “treasure”. They steal two bikes and embark on a 160km road trip, fully sure that this is the chance for them to escape their troubled home lives and become multimillionaires. Problem is that Sergeant Healy is in hot on their heels. To add to their troubles, a chance encounter with a Dublin drug dealer (PJ Gallagher) proves problematic and ultimately very dangerous. He may be disabled but he is armed and prepared to kill to get what he wants.

    The movie works because the characters are endearing and likeable, albeit crazy and stupid. Their brotherly relationship is credible – two idiotic young fellows who dress the same, act the same, and even have the same ugly moustaches! All the while, they will stick by each other as they clumsily pursue their dreams. The dialogue might not be particularly sharp nor original but their back and forth banter is very funny and the ridiculous situations the teens find themselves in are daftly amusing. At one stage they find themselves in the yard of an old country man, killing and plucking a hen for dinner?! Their brotherly
    relationship is credible and Jock’s tragically dysfunctional family background adds a depth and realism to the story. The relationship between Conor and his mother (Hilary Rose) is played to good effect too and the chemistry between them is immensely enjoyable. I liked that the movie was set in Cork as it makes a refreshing change from Dublin. The film was shot in some of the most iconic locations around Cork city and along the Wild Atlantic Way and it’s magnificent to look at. This buddy caper movie deserves to do well and should appeal to a wide audience of all ages. Since not many Irish comedies make it to the big screen, it’s great to see this one come on board. Go and see it, you’re guaranteed a laugh.