Monday, August 14, 2023

Dead Shot, The IRA Running Amok in 1975 London

The IRA could pretend their members were motivated by their Marxist ideology, but they were usually moved by much more personal considerations, like religion, revenge, or the approval of an abusive father. For Michael O’Hara, it is all about revenge. He is determined to find and kill the soldier who accidentally shot his pregnant wife, but his quest for vengeance is disillusioning rather than radicalizing in Tom Guard & Charles Guard’s Dead Shot, which releases in theaters and on-demand this Friday.

O’Hara had retired into exile, but he returned to Northern Ireland for his pregnant wife Carol’s delivery. Unfortunately, Tempest’s unit had the drop on him, but during the heat of the moment, he sees movement in the backseat of O’Hara’s car and squeezes off three rounds right between Carol’s eyes. It is a propaganda disaster, but Holland, the mysterious deep-state scary guy, promises to protect Tempest from prosecution if he joins his new task force. They will be chasing IRA terrorists in London, using the weapons and tactics of the battlefield. They will need them, because Keenan, a highly placed IRA leader, plans to escalate violent attacks on British civilians.

Although presumed dead, O’Hara is itching to find Tempest. Keenan dangles intel on the reassigned soldier as bait, forcing him to reluctantly assist a campaign of terror increasing directed at civilian targets. It does not sit well with O’Hara or “Catherine the Courier,” who has particularly personal history with Keenan.

The poster for
Dead Shot makes it look like a run-of-the-mill VOD action movie, but it rather more thoughtful than that. In many ways, it is a lot like the Dutch series The Spectacular, except it is set in London rather than the Benelux countries. It is a grim and gritty revenge thriller that critiques the ruthlessness of both Holland and Keenan, but the latter probably gets it somewhat worse than the MI-666 shark. Think what you will, but on some level, Holland is a professional, who makes decisions unclouded by emotions.

To that end, Mark Strong is perfectly cast as the cynical Holland. One look at him tells viewers how smart and dangerous he is. Colin Morgan is also terrific as O’Hara, whose character arc arguably symbolically represents the Northern Ireland conflict. He rages for revenge, until he finally just gets sick of the sight of death. Yet, Morgan keeps it all very grounded and viscerally personal. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is absolutely chilling as Keenan, but Aml Ameen plays Tempest with a blue collar sensibility that is almost too likable for the film’s murky morality.

Again, this is a far better film the key art indicates. It is an old school payback tragedy that captures the depressed vibe of pre-Thatcher Britain. The Guards and the design team definitely give the film a realistic period look, but in a grungy that-is-how-it-really-looked kind of way, rather than a flashy and cool Tarantino sort of way. Recommend for fans of IRA thrillers,
Dead Shot releases this Friday (8/18) in theaters and on digital VOD.