Directed by Brendan Muldowney. Starring Darren Healy, Nora-Jane Noone, Ryan Andrews, Karl Argue, Marisa Armstrong, Cathy Belton 18 cert, lim release, 85 min

Savageis a hypnotic, paranoid drama of one crime victim’s descent into madness, writes DONALD CLARKE

SOME YEARS back, it was customary to moan that, despite the wealth and happiness all about, Irish film-makers refused to make films concerning frolicking urban gadabouts. Soon they were making little else.

Perhaps we now yearn for a movie that reflects the current surging pessimism. If so, then Brendan Muldowney’s Savagedoes the job very nicely indeed. The picture begins with a pair of bloodied, shoeless feet padding their way across a dangerous pavement and continues in that jolly vein for a nippy, economic 85 minutes. Fáilte Ireland won’t be including the film in any welcome packs.

Darren Healy plays Paul, a modestly successful newspaper photographer with Premiership hair and an introspective manner. While out on the town, he is savagely, randomly assaulted and finds himself in hospital recovering from serious injuries. He doesn’t take it well.

Despite the efforts of a forceful psychiatrist (Cathy Belton) and a well-meaning nurse (Nora-Jane Noone), Paul spins into madness and begins plotting some sort of vague revenge. He attends martial arts classes. He buys a knife. He shaves his head. He begins twitching at the mirror.

There isn’t much plot to Savage: Paul gets sliced up and becomes steadily more deranged. But the distraught, permanently crushed performance by Healy and the impressively sinister ambience elevate the film beyond standard urban-revenge melodrama.

Using a palate of icy cobalt blues and alienating greys, Muldowney and cinematographers Tom Comerford and Michael O’Donovan create a kind of science-fiction nightmare of the dangerous Dublin streets. The anxiety in Healy’s eyes makes it clear that we are viewing the city as it would seem to a dangerously untethered paranoiac. The effect is wholly successful.

The film could, perhaps, accommodate a tad more nuance, and the shock twist in the middle does risk pushing it into penny- dreadful territory. But Savageremains a finely honed shocker enlivened by occasional moments of impressively black humour: the knife fight between Paul and a surprisingly blasé sheep plays like something out of Jackass. We strongly urge you not to try this at home.