Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Fatal Deviation - The only Irish action film you'll ever need.

A woman working in a shop is being harassed by two scumbags. She's just trying to stack her bottles of Crisp & Dry and packets of Inversoft and they are thrashing the place. Then out of nowhere a big mystery chap turns up and saves the day by destroying the crotch of one and frightening the life out of the other. He's her hero. But who is he? What's going on? 

The shop is Londis. 
The place is Trim in County Meath. 
The man is Jimmy Bennett and he's back in his hometown for revenge. 
Jimmy's here to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

And he's all out of bubblegum.

Jimmy Bennett is a man out for blood. His hometown is under the sway of a drug kingpin called Loughlan who along with his son Mikey and swathes of henchman have people living in fear . Loughlan is also the man responsible for the tragic direction Jimmy's life has taken. Jimmy wants him dead but things are complicated by a local beauty, a mystic monk and a dangerous fighting tournament called Bealtaine. Can he get revenge? Can he get the girl?? Can he possibly pull his jeans up any higher???

Fatal Deviation rocks. It is the perfect beer and takeaway movie. It takes a cliched action story and splashes it with Smithwicks, Tayto's, words no one outside the country will be able to pronounce and a scene that would have been rejected from Father Ted for being too out there. It's Ireland's most underappreciated film and a very rare Irish action film. Taffin is up there in the fun stakes but for sheer entertainment value this one can't be topped. It's not a film for everyone though. If you take your film watching any bit seriously at all you'll have trouble with this. But if you can just let yourself go with it you'll have a whale of a time. You see, it's not a good film, in fact it's pretty far from it but vitally it's one that tries to be. It's my favourite thing about it. It's sincere. It's heartfelt. That's why it will always be better than wannabe cult films like Sharknado or (groan) Wolfcop. These are cynical exercises. Films that set out to be bad on purpose. Feck that. It's soulmate is Tommy Wiseau's 2004 classic The Room. Another film that didn't turn out exactly as it's creator envisioned but one that its maker put his heart and soul into. 

Jimmy Bennett is played by James P. Bennett. I don't know much about the man but it's quite obvious he's a Van Damme fan. Especially early Van Damme. We get full on nods to Kickboxer & Bloodsport here and one entire scene from Hard Target is ripped off wholesale. Emoting isn't his strongpoint but he has a great physicality and looks believable kicking/shooting the shit out of baddies. James has been grafting away in Hollywood for years and finally his persistence is paying off. In 2013 he played a small role in The Lone Ranger and in 2018 he's appearing in not one but two Jean Claude Van Damme films and one Steven Seagal film. Fair fucks to him. Mikey Graham (YES HIM!) as bad guy Mikey plays a fun part. Once again he isn't exactly the most commanding actor but he gets a couple of menacing moments and brings a scummy jackeen sensibility to the role. Nicole O'Sullivan and Michael Regan round out the cast as Nicola and Loughlan. Like the others Nicole isn't one bit convincing but adds a touch of glamour to proceedings. She's like Katherine Hepburn beside Regan though. His performance is bad. It's the stuff of legends, the stuff cult movies are made of and some of his lines will be in your head for weeks to come after seeing him.

Fatal Deviation may be an ultra low budget film but it's never a boring one. We get car chases and car crashes, motorbike mayhem, shoot outs, bar fights, a full on martial arts fight to the death tournament and much more. There's never more than a few minutes between fight scenes and interesting stylistic choices liven up any lulls in the action. A bumper car ride that looks like a ropey acid trip, black and white/sepia toned flashbacks that fill in Jimmy's backstory and of course the naked cowboy bathtub scene ( Don't ask, just watch) all ensure you'll keep watching and laughing. Honestly, it's more entertaining and more charming than a lot of the big budget bilge pumped out these days.

The dialogue is a joy. "What's this? Beat up my men week?" "Fuck you and your gun ya prick." & "YOU MADE ME LOOK BAD....AND THAT'S NOT GOOD!" It's the gift that keep on giving.  Then moments of unintentional hilarity like Jimmy walking through the woods ninja style or the fella that gets genuinely injured falling off a foot high wall (listen to his groan, that's no acting) will fold you double with laughter. It's just non stop entertainment. All this and it's a love letter to the martial arts cinema that proliferated in Hollywood in of the late 80's and early 90's. The training montages, the touches of mysticism and the asian themed music. Men of a certain age will get a kick out of all this but there's something here for everyone.

The best way to watch this is with friends and under the influence of something intoxicating. My most memorable viewing of it was in a Limerick pub that was organised by @PaulEyezOnMe and watched in the company of none other than former Munster & Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery. That was a surreal night. Fatal Deviation is 20 years old this year. In fact the 20th anniversary of the Bealtaine festival is soon so it's the perfect time to revisit this or watch it for the first time. But how can you watch this? Well dear friends, I'm looking out for ye all. Just scroll down and watch this in all it's glory right here.


P.S. Keep watching during the credits.

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