The Limit Of (15A)
It’s often said that modern bank robbers don’t go into buildings with their guns blazing anymore. No, they stand behind the counter in sharp suits clicking keys. In other words, they’re the banks themselves.
We all know how badly they behaved when they were throwing 100% mortgages at people during Ireland’s boom years. After the bubble burst, they re-possessed houses when people went into negative equity.
In this tense and unusual film, bank official James Allen (Laurence O’Fuarain) decides to do something about the corporate callousness after he’s told to decline a loan to a woman whose husband has a brain tumour. The man wants to go to America for treatment as his health cover isn’t sufficient here. His daughter Alison actually works in the bank. That makes the refusal even more callous.
Allen doesn’t seem to care. In fact he’s generally rude to Alison. But a fuse has been lit inside him.
Health problems afflict his own house when his mother suffers a stroke. Suddenly the former golden boy of the boom does a u-turn, deciding to hack into the bank’s encrypted files.
In an act of angry recklessness he reverses every decision that’s been made in the last five years regarding failed loan applications, giving them the green light instead.
This is an engrossing film full of atmospheric silences, Pinteresque pauses, confusing flashbacks and a shocking killing. There’s a mesmerising Tom Waits-style soundtrack from Mick Flannery.
It’s the directorial debut of Charlestown native Alan Mulligan, a bank official himself in a previous incarnation. He also had a hand in the producing and writing. He builds the tension towards Allen’s meltdown inspiringly.
O’Fuarain is like the young Brando, a powder keg waiting to explode. Sarah Carroll is equally impressive as Alison, a woman both intrigued and mystified by him as he embarks on his mission. When she cottons on to it, the plot takes a very interesting twist.
See this at all costs. It doesn’t make for easy viewing. Mulligan mixes scenes of trauma and sensitivity seamlessly as the film hurtles towards its climax, i.e. the day when the bank discovers its files have been surreptitiously doctored.
There’s a lot of pain on view but Mulligan doesn’t wallow in it. He just presents it as a fact of life for his beleaguered cast. They keep a tight rein on their emotions for most of the time but the tension is palpable. It’s like an elastic band waiting to snap.
I wasn’t familiar with either Carroll or O’Fuarain before I saw this but I’ll be looking out for them from now on. With a script that’s pared to the bone and a directing style that mirrors its minimalism, they capture the dark core of their characters without any special pleading. That makes the quiet final moments of the film resonate even more forcibly.
Mulligan said Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive influenced it. See that too. It’s equally haunting.