Dead Along the Way review: A dead ringer for Tarantino - in a good way

Irish director Maurice O’Carroll's thriller wears its influences on its sleeve, and proves to be a reasonably effective exercise in cinematic ventriloquism

Dead Along the Way
    
Director: Maurice O'Carroll
Cert: 15A
Genre: Crime
Starring: Niall Murphy, Ciaran Bermingham, Tom Lawlor
Running Time: 1 hr 26 mins

Early on in his decent debut feature, Irish director Maurice O’Carroll has his characters deliver a conversation to a camera apparently positioned within a car boot. You can take this two ways. It’s either a lazy lift from Tarantino or a sincere throwing up of hands.

Later in the picture, one character explains that it’s not debt that makes enemies; it’s the failure to repay such debts. Let’s say that the “trunk shot” gives Tarantino (and, by extension, Martin McDonagh) what he is owed.

There are worse ways of using up small change than shooting a body-in-the-boot film. O’Carroll has worked hard to fashion a twisty plot that, despite traditional car-boot temporal shuffling, proves relatively easy to follow.

We begin with Big Jim (Tom Lawlor), a loan shark, explaining to an accomplice that he has just beaten his daughter’s boyfriend to death. In a later timeline, wedding videographers Wacker (Niall Murphy) and Tony (Ciaran Bermingham) half-accidentally kill Big Jim and make feeble attempts to cover up the crime.


It transpires that Wacker borrowed money from Tony to finance IVF treatment for his wife. Is Tony gay? Has Big Jim killed the right man?

Sometimes, as in a final speech about the hellishness of life, the dialogue overreaches itself. The budget restraints are conspicuous throughout. Much of the humour is too broad to fit even a widescreen ratio (the scene where Big Jim turns up for a bit of torturing dressed as Olivia Newton-John triggers at least one quirk too many).

Still, Dead Along the Way remains a reasonably effective exercise in cinematic ventriloquism. There are enough good things here to suggest that, when O'Carroll sets aside the Quentin doll, he will have much to offer.

Keep an eye open as the film tours around the country over the next few weeks.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist