Review: Gritty 'The Shadow of Violence' tells familer tale
Courtesy of Saban Films
Originally premiering under the name “Calm with Horses,” Nick Rowland’s now entitled “The Shadow of Violence” puts a familiar spin on the mobster genre. Rowland puts actor and musician Cosmo Jarvis - looking like a young Marlon Brando from “On The Waterfront” - at the center of the film, the one performance which salvages a picture that quickly looses sight of its meditative focus.
Set in Ireland and adapted by Joe Murtagh from a short story by Colin Barrett, “Violence” is a gritty crime drama with streaks of irreverent humor thrown in. It’s well acted and uses animals as symbols of redemption - anyone see “The Mustang” last year? - but ultimately, it travels down a path many have gone, and fails to own the heart of its story: The bond of father and son.
Jarvis plays Douglas, an ex-boxer now working as the muscle for a squad of ruthless drug dealers. Enter the Devers family: Paudi (Ned Dennehy), his brother Hector (David Wilmot) and cousin Dympna (Barry Kroghan - “Dunkirk”), the latter of which brought Douglas into this line of work and has to babysit the guy. It’s an interesting dynamic because Douglas could pop Dympna’s pipsqueak skull like nothing, but considering he’s got a family - including an autistic son - going along with the plan is in his best interest.
As it stands, Douglas has been ordered to beat up an old man who raped Hector’s teenage niece and though he carries out the order with a considerable amount of force, his bosses aren’t satisfied with the pain levied against the individual. All of this is happening as Douglas is experiencing a reality check on his own, which includes being there for his son, Jack (Kijan Motoney) and former partner Ursula (Niamh Algar). Especially as Ursula is desperate for extra funds to help send Jack to a special school for kids with disabilities. Douglas understands that, like his son, he also has temperament issues stemming from rage and anxieties, which make him the perfect candidate for doing The Devers Family’s dirty work.
Douglas wants to be a good dad, except he doesn’t know how to express it, and he tries to find peace through horseback riding. This is where the meat and potatoes of “The Shadow of Violence” comes to light, though, too often it detours into macho violence and seems to lose sight of what's important. There’s riffs and comic dialogue between Douglas and Dympna to help ease the mood, and the ending is beyond predictable, but if not for Jarvis’s moving central performance, the film would be living in a shadow of itself.
THE SHADOW OF VIOLENCE opens in theaters only starting July 31st.