Contributor; Derby, England

Perrier's Bounty is a strange one. It doesn't seem fair it's largely been ignored, yet at the same time it's a little too obvious why. Director Ian Fitzgibbon (A Film with Me in It) hits all the right beats with the story of a small-time Dublin lowlife, his frantic attempts to pay off a minor debt to a vicious local gang boss and the escalating chaos that follows, yet an air of over-familiarity keeps the obvious talent of all those involved from impressing as much as it ought to have done.

Said lowlife is Michael (Cillian Murphy, Inception, Batman Begins, 28 Days Later) who, as the film begins, has only hours remaining before his debt to gangster Perrier (Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges) falls due. Michael's half-hearted efforts to scrape together enough cash don't look to bear fruit in time and when Perrier's henchmen corner him, an unexpected slip of the trigger finger sees one man dead and Michael running for the hills.

Tagging along are Michael's father Jim (veteran British actor Jim Broadbent, most famous recently for the Harry Potter films and Hot Fuzz) and angst-ridden downstairs neighbour Brenda (Jodie Whittaker, Venus). Jim's turned up out of the blue, haunted by a premonition of his imminent death, anxious to see his son one last time; Brenda's obsessed with a two-timing boyfriend, hoping they can be on-again rather than off-again, oblivious to the torch Michael's carrying for her.

The bounty refers to the reward the titular gang boss offers once his henchmen prove not quite up to the task of bringing Michael in alive, but the film is more a story about seemingly unrelated events coming together for a grand conclusion than it is about a macguffin driving the action. Gleeson gets surprisingly little screen time, barely more than Broadbent.

Not that there's much to be had; Perrier's Bounty powers along at well short of ninety minutes, as if writer Mark O'Rowe (Intermission, Boy A) wants to make sure the audience get no time to think about anything. On top of the grimly comic violence he throws in a steady stream of predictable vignettes to keep the viewer's attention; here's the elderly gentleman behaving badly (Broadbent clearly having a ball); here come the comedy civil servants (two overzealous vehicle clampers) to meet their comeuppance; here's the threat to the hero's masculinity; here's the gratuitous nudity to prove what a lothario Brenda's boyfriend is; here's the drug use to advance the plot...

Yet Fitzgibbon keeps such a steady hand on the film, even going at full speed, the story ends up surprisingly engaging for all it's so formulaic. Only Perrier's discovery two of his henchmen were in fact gay feels like sub-Guy Ritchie winking to the camera. The rest may well provoke an unintended groan, but it's so clearly aware it's a cartoon and entertains so few pretensions to being anything more it's hard to get too riled up in response.

The cast help. All the principals struggle a little with O'Rowe's dialogue, which tends to the self-consciously florid, but each get their standout moment and Broadbent and Gleeson in particular are excellent, gently unhinged and credibly menacing respectively. Michael gets virtually no background detail other than one big plot point - we never even learn what his debt was for - but Cillian Murphy manages to elicit a grudging sympathy for his hapless attempts to play white knight nonetheless.

It's also an unexpectedly handsome production. Seamus Deasy's cinematography throws up a number of eye-catching, almost painterly widescreen compositions against the bleak background scenery, all seedy urban grit and cold blue filters that add to a sense of genuine threat, however unrealistic the violence.

The overriding impression for many may well be they've seen all this before; the wisecracks, the brutality, the eloquent profanity, the underachieving hero, the demented senior citizen, the laidback David Holmes score. At the same time it doesn't deserve to be damned with faint praise. Perrier's Bounty may arguably be hollow, even openly derivative, but it's put together well enough and rattles along so quickly that the right audience - fuelled by alcohol and conviviality - simply won't care.

The DVD:

Optimum Home Entertainment's UK DVD release of Perrier's Bounty (available to buy from 16th August) is unsurprisingly bare-bones, given how slight the film is and how poorly it fared at the cinema earlier this year. The disc opens with nearly seven minutes of trailers - A Prophet, Chloe, Ghost Writer (now titled simply The Ghost) and the Mr. T Snickers advert. Menus are very minimal, all sliding titles and picture frame layouts set to clips of the score, but they transition quickly and cleanly and look attractive enough. The film is divided into twelve chapter stops.

The image itself is solid; the picture is markedly soft, without too much definition in the blacks and with what looks like a lot of mild grain, but both of these feel like an intentional part of the hazy, analogue quality to the cinematography more than a failing on Optimum's part. Removable English subtitles are clean, clear, free from errors and do a very good job of conveying the flavour of the film's vernacular. The basic stereo 2.0 audio track is clear and serviceable, the only problem being perhaps a little too much treble. Dolby Digital 5.1 is also available.

Extras are barely worth bothering with. The original trailer is a brief two minutes which gives a decent enough impression of the film, but concentrates too much on the bounty of the title and suffers from a horribly misplaced snippet of upbeat funk halfway through. The only other extras are two interviews, Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson paired up for one, Jim Broadbent and Jodie Whittaker for the other. Both are a little over six minutes long and very obvious EPK fluff, with the actors full of gushing praise more than anything else, though the sight of Jim Broadbent enthusing over a chance at a 'quite physical' role is sure to raise a smile. Neither interview carries any subtitles.

Some may finish it and instantly forget about it, some may want to give it another spin, but Ian Fitzgibbon's third feature film is a hectic, entertaining ride while it lasts, one that deserves a viewing for all its shortcomings. Optimum Home Entertainment's DVD release of Perrier's Bounty is somewhat workmanlike but it's hardly the sort of film many would be dying for a full spread of extras on, and for those who just want to add the film to their collection it certainly comes recommended.

(Thanks go to Optimum Home Entertainment for facilitating this DVD review.)

Perrier's Bounty

  • Ian Fitzgibbon
  • Mark O'Rowe
  • Gabriel Byrne
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Michael McElhatton
  • Don Wycherley
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Ian FitzgibbonMark O'RoweGabriel ByrneCillian MurphyMichael McElhattonDon WycherleyActionComedyCrime

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