Delightfully offbeat and bursting with energy, The Young Offenders, directed by Peter Foott, may not be the next Citizen Kane, but it certainly is one of the best comedies of the year.
Following two teenagers as they embark on their bicycles to the south coast of Ireland to steal a bag of cocaine worth seven million euros, The Young Offenders reeks of a love of the classic road trip film fused with typical sardonic Irish humour to brilliant effect.
But the heart of the film lies with its two protagonists, Conor and Jock, who wholeheartedly believe that the only way they’ll be able to improve their lives is by stealing cocaine and selling it. Their chemistry that evokes more than a little of Laurel and Hardy is the anchor that lets some of the narrative knots seem relatively unimportant. Both completely idiotic but always with a sweet centre, their banter is what makes the questionable plot work. You can tell Foott knew it too, opening the film with the two characters on a hill discussing what they’d do with a million euros, the film slowly becomes one not about the cocaine, but about their relationship with each other.
You can tell Foott knew it too, opening the film with the two characters on a hill discussing what they’d do with a million euros, the film slowly becomes one not about the cocaine, but about their relationship with each other.
And despite the fact that like any other comedy there’s a fair share of crude jokes, the film bravely ventures into legitimately dark territory, especially when it comes to parental relationships and how children may be doomed to repeat their parent’s mistakes. But Foott will never dwell on it, and quite rightly so. No matter how dour I may mistakenly portray the film to be, there’s always a brilliant piece of slapstick or observational humour that’ll carry the film through the narrative lows.
There is a genuine love for film here; almost all of the characters are either a play on typical crime film archetypes or reference the archetypes themselves, with wry jokes about Serpico, Casino and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Foott will gleefully subvert any expectations you might have about what the film is going to be.
But no amount of references or narrative lulls can possibly drag down the raw energy that every scene in the film has. From the opening montage, every single scene seems important and are almost always a setup for a punchline later down the time. The running time is lean, coming in at around 85 minutes, but it honestly doesn’t feel like much of a detriment to the film. It’s telling that one of my few criticisms of the film are that I would have enjoyed spending more time with these characters on their road trip, but if anything that speaks great volumes about the strength of the characters and comedy that prop up every scene of the film.