“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nobody Move, This Is a Review: WHAT RICHARD DID

Richard Karlsen (Jack Reynor), the handsome young hero of Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did (15A), is almost too good to be true. A schools rugby captain and the alpha male of his peer group in the leafy environs of south County Dublin, Richard is also thoughtful and sensitive, ‘the male equivalent,’ as one of his friends declares, ‘of the Rose of fucking Tralee’. Loosely based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day in Blackrock (2008), which was in turn inspired by the media coverage of the brutal death of a Dublin schoolboy at the hands - or feet - of his peers, What Richard Did is a character study of an intelligent young man who kicks his golden future apart in a moment of booze-fuelled jealous rage. It’s a thought-provoking film that offers its teenage protagonists no mercy as it pries into their intimate lives, but it’s refreshing too to watch a film that allows young men and women be who they are on their own terms - it’s a kind of Irish Less Than Zero (1987), in which the pretty young things prove to be pretty vacant when the first real stumbling block to their gilded passage through life drops out of the sky. Reynor is superb as Richard, an apparently effortless performance that grows impressively intense and anguished as he tries to come to terms with his tragedy, and he gets very strong support from fellow cast members Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley and Fionn Walton. As if dazzled by Reynor’s performance, however, the filmmakers allow the true tragedy of the story to slip away - Richard is here the perpetrator, after all, rather than the victim - in favour of wallowing in persuasive but ultimately hollow existential self-questioning. Then again, this is a story that has its roots in the Me-Me-Me Celtic Tiger era, so perhaps focusing on Richard’s grief at the loss of his privileged existence is the most cutting satirical side-swipe at that benighted time Campbell and Abrahamson could have devised. ****

This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

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