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The glass may be half empty but it will contain good whiskey. I write film reviews for http://www.scannain.com/ , say hi and we can debate films forever and ever and ever...... Warning this blog may contain more than just film talk.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Film Review - Jack and Ralph Plan a Murder (2014)

All it takes is one inspired moment in a movie to get you in sync with it. I had been enjoying Jack and Ralph Plan a Murder up to a point but had not quite clicked with it. In truth, the scatological tone of the film is not generally my cup of tea but the performances and the story had kept me interested. The story concerns Jack (Jeff Doyle, also writer and director) a meek guy who is bullied mercilessly by co-worker Pat (a splendidly odious Chris Newman). Jack is in love with Laura (Aisling Bodkin) who also works in the office. Jack is advised on life by his imaginary best friend, the titular Ralph (Johnny Elliot, unapologetically profane) and it is Ralph who suggests that they devise a plan to kill Pat. So far so good but I was looking for something to hook me in. The scene that did occurs when Jack is in ‘training’ to kill Pat. Himself and Ralph (but really just himself) come across a dog in a park. The ensuing scene with the dog rendered me helpless with laughter. I was in and ready to laugh at things I really should know better than to laugh at.

Throughout the film Jack is encouraged by Ralph to fight back against various different people. But the device is really there so Jack can try to give himself some courage. There is a really nice scene after Jack has an accident at a party.  It is a quiet conversation with Laura on the street at night. Under the street lights we see that at that moment Jack is frightened not of Pat but of Laura and indeed reaching out. It is reflected in the yellow hue that surrounds him and this makes for a surprisingly subtle and effective scene. To be honest my only real criticism of the film is that the situation Jack finds himself in is a very real one and there are some missed opportunities for some genuine pathos here. But Doyle is going for the jugular regarding dark comedy and there is no doubt there will be something for everyone to be offended by.

Indeed there is a terrific line said early on by Pat to Laura describing Jack: ‘I heard he watched Schindler’s List and laughed all the way through’. If you find this funny this may well be the film for you. This line whilst been very funny to me also sums up very nicely that Jack is a very troubled man. Seen talking to himself (or Ralph) by various people does mean that we strongly suspect that Jack has some sort of mental illness. This adds a layer of tension to the film and gives an occasional moment when you think Jack might become tragically out of control. But a laugh is never far away to cut this tension.

The cast for such a low budget film is really good. Newman and Doyle impress as does Johnny Elliot who plays Ralph with a kind of swaggering ‘Kilgore in Apocalypse Now’ vibe. Bodkin makes the most of a decent but quite small role as Laura. There are a couple of small cameos by Peter Coonan and John Connors. Coonan plays a pimp who made me laugh with the most graphic assault on food I have ever witnessed. I laughed and winced. Connors is fast becoming one of the most promising actors in Ireland and he adds to that reputation here as a kind of religious figure for Jack to talk to.

Overall Jack and Ralph Plan a Murder is a film that will not be to everyone’s taste. But that is quite all right. A film cannot be all things to all people. But there are quite a few laughs to be had, it is well acted and really nicely shot (great to see Smithfield looking so well, an underused area for filming in). I am genuinely interested to see what Jeff Doyle does next and for me that is as good a recommendation for a first film as there is. 

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