Review: ‘Nothing Personal’

Ginger Ian Hart Liam Kelly John Lynch Kenny James Frain Leonard Wilson Michael Gambon Eddie Gary Lydon Tommy Ruaidhri Conroy Ann Maria Doyle Kennedy Kathleen Jeni Courtney Cecil Gerard McSorley Michael Gareth O'Hare

Ginger Ian Hart Liam Kelly John Lynch Kenny James Frain Leonard Wilson Michael Gambon Eddie Gary Lydon Tommy Ruaidhri Conroy Ann Maria Doyle Kennedy Kathleen Jeni Courtney Cecil Gerard McSorley Michael Gareth O’Hare

An uncompromising depiction of the cult of sectarian violence that has in the past created civil war in Northern Ireland (and which is doing so today in Bosnia), “Nothing Personal” is a totally riveting drama rigorously directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. Because the film concentrates so single-mindedly on acts of violence, and depicts the way innocent children are inexorably drawn into the bitter quarrels of their parents, pic might be a bit too confrontational for some audiences. On the other hand, this is in no way an exploitative production.

Though the action is set in Belfast 20 years ago, when both sides were trying to forge a truce as a way out of the escalating bloodshed, there’s no doubt that this is a timeless saga of what happens when any community is divided along religious lines. O’Sullivan and screenwriter Daniel Mornin, working from his book “All Our Fault,” carefully depict the different levels of command within a Loyalist (i.e., pro-British) paramilitary group, from their bluff leader (Michael Gambon), who has regular meetings with his Catholic counterpart to finds ways of reducing the level of violence, down to members of a trigger-happy gang who bring unrelenting violence to the city streets.

This particular unit is nominally led by Kenny (James Frain), who sees himself as a soldier in the anti-IRA struggle, but the unit is effectively run by the hotheaded Ginger (Ian Hart), a fanatical bigot for whom the only good Catholic is a dead one. The influence of these dangerous men on the next generation is clearly depicted with the inclusion of Tommy (Ruaidhri Conroy), a fresh-faced teenager, in the heavily armed and dangerous gang. These fanatical Protestants are contrasted with a Catholic, Liam Kelly (John Lynch), who isn’t an IRA member and deplores the violence, trying only to make a life for himself and his two children. These two, a girl and a boy, daily roam the increasingly dangerous streets.

The film unfolds over a 24-hour period, opening with a sequence in which an IRA bomb explodes without warning in a pub in a Protestant district. This act of violence is the trigger that sets Ginger and his mates off on their increasingly hysterical and deadly rampage.

The ironic title masks a film that unflinchingly depicts the endless spiral of killing and counter-killing, which can be stopped only by compromises and peace talks.

This is a far superior film to O’Sullivan’s previous “December Bride.” The fine cast give flawless performances, especially Hart as the extremist Ginger, Frain as the only slightly less fanatical Kenny, and Lynch as the Catholic who yearns for peace but who finds himself and his children sucked into the vortex of violence.

Filmed on location in Dublin, pic has a totally authentic feel, but its restricted vision, and the almost total concentration on violence, make it an exhausting viewing experience. Production credits are first-rate in every department.

Nothing Personal

(BRITISH-IRISH)

Production

A Channel Four Films presentation, in association with Bord Scannan Nah Eireann/Irish Film Board and British Screen, of a Little Bird production. (International sales: Film Four Intl., London.) Produced by Jonathan Cavendish, Tracey Seaward. Executive producer, James Mitchell. Directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan. Screenplay, Daniel Mornin, based on his novel "All Our Fault."

Crew

Camera (Metrocolor), Dick Pope; editor, Michael Parker; music, Philip Appleby; production design, Mark Geraghty; art direction. Fiona Daly; costunes, Consolata Boyle; sound (Dolby SR), Peter Lindsay; stunts, Nick Gillard; assistant director, Lisa Mulcahy; casting, Ros & John Hubbard. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Aug. 31, 1995. (Also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 86 MIN.
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