(director: Nick Rowland; screenwriters: Joe Murtagh/ based on the short story“Calm With Horses” by Colin Barrett; cinematographer: Piers McGrail; editors: Nicolas Chaudeurge, Matthew Tabern; music: Blanck Mass; cast:  Cosmo Jarvis (Douglas “Arm” Armstrong), Barry Keoghan (Dympna Devers), Liam Carney (Fannigan), Ned Dennehy (Paudi), David Wilmot (Hector), Niamh Algar (Ursula), Kiljan Tyr Moroney (Jack), Brian Doherty (Larry), Brid Brennan (Maire Mirkin), Hazel Doupe (Charlotte),Simone Kirby (June), Anthony Welsh (Rob); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Michael Fassbender, Conor McCaughan, Andrew Lowe, Ed Guiney, Sam Lavender, Daniel Battsek, Sue Bruce-Smith, Will Clarke, Mike Runagall, Celine Haddad, Sarah Dillon; Saban; 2019-UK/Ireland)

A bleak Irish gangster movie, filled with despair and a black humor.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A bleak Irish gangster movie, filled with despair and a black humor, is about an ex-boxer turned feared mob enforcer for a drug-dealing family. It’s set in the scenic rural area of West Ireland. The realistic lowlife crime indie drama is directed with some snap by Nick Rowland, in his debut feature, and is written by Joe Murtagh. The writer bases it on the short story “Calm With Horses,” which is found in the 2014 prize-winning collection Young Skins, by Irish writer Colin Barrett.

Douglas “Arm” Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis, actor & musician) is a tough ex-boxer now an enforcer for the drug dealing Devers family–run by the psychopath Paudi (Ned Dennehy) and his more respectable brother Hector (David Wilmot). The one who brought the boxer into the mob is the young egotistical punk cousin of the brothers, Dympna (Barry Keoghan), who acts as the enforcer’s handler and looks foremost to being respected by his Uncle Paudi.

We see Arm in action, as he pummels an old drunk (Liam Carney) who has raped Hector’s teenage niece Charlotte (Hazel Doupe). Though he gives him a convincing beating, the bosses want him to dish out more pain.

In his down time, Arm becomes more thoughtful about his life as he’s aging quickly and believes he really wants to be a good dad, if he only knew how to. His former girlfriend
Ursula (Niamh Algar) cares for their five-year-old son, Jack (Kiljan Moroney), who has autism, and she wants her ex to give her the money so Jack can go to a special school. Jack feels good riding horses at the horse ranch of mom’s new nice guy boyfriend (Anthony Welsh). Arm thinks that also may be good therapy for him, as it might ease his rages. The ex has moved on from Arm but still cares enough about him to warn him the Devers’ thing is not him.

The film veers from the family drama and centers on the riffs between Arm and Dympna, and the gangster violence our hero is entrapped in and how the crime family plies him with cocaine until he’s hooked on it and seems out of it most of the time.

Things move along at a face pace and if you’ve seen a few such crime films you can probably say you saw this one. It sparkles mainly because Cosmo Jarvis is a fierce and imposing figure who elevates the indie to a point it would never reach without him in it. Arm is depicted as maybe not a bad guy who is nevertheless a bad guy. It’s the kind of picture where the hero must make a big moral decision if he wants to advance his crime career to be a hitman. Either way, if he takes the job or refuses, there will be consequences.