DESERTER Martin Feeney (a bearded, intense James Frecheville) returns to his Irish homeland intent on seeking revenge for his family’s deaths.
Hannah (Hugo Weaving in gruff Londoner mode) is a grizzly Army veteran turned bounty hunter keen to capture Feeney.
What follows is a taut, often violent drama with a powerhouse of a cast – Barry Keoghan, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea to name a few.
It depicts the atrocities of a country trying to pick itself up after the “great hunger” of the mid-19th Century while defending itself against the influx of the English with their roof- burning bailiffs.
It begins with real promise – expansive landscape shots, bleak and majestic, often hellish, settings which lift the on-screen freezing cold into your bones.
Among cold and washed-out scenes, dialogue is sparse – often in Gaelic – allowing director Lance Daly to let their situation unfold rather than implicitly explain itself.
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It bounces through many genres; Western, revenge, tragedy, historical reflection and educational. It even seems to give a nod to John Rambo in First Blood.
Sadly, its ambition narrows as it realises the story needs some focus – leaving us with a more traditional third act than the film deserved.
(15) 100mins ★★★☆☆