King of the Travellers (2 stars)

King of the Travellers

Underwhelming tale of torn loyalty, forbidden love, revenge and betrayal

Writer-director Mark O'Connor ambitiously attempts to draw on elements of Shakespearean drama and tragedy as well as the classic American cinema of the '70s for his latest film, King of The Travellers, with moderate success.

For while his film does include all the classic elements of torn loyalty, forbidden love, revenge and betrayal, the reliance on untrained actors lends it an amateurish feel that negates the emotional impact, while the raw, rapid nature of the direction seldom allows the bigger themes at play the chance to breathe.

As a young boy, John Paul Moorhouse (played in adult guise by actual traveller John Connors) saw his father gunned down and has grown up vowing revenge on the rival Powers clan he suspects of being behind it. But while their sudden return offers that chance via sanctioned bare knuckle fights and escalating violence, John also finds himself drawn to former childhood sweetheart Winnie (Carla McGlynn), one of the Powers' prized women.

As John battles with his emotions, his uncle Francis (Michael Collins) attempts to keep the peace between the two clans but finds his own attempts thwarted by the bullish tendencies of John Paul's volatile brother Mickey (Peter Connan) who wants nothing more than to inflame the situation.

O'Connor's film looks and feels authentic on a surface level, but scratch beneath that and it comes unstuck once his cast are required to deliver on the more weighty stuff.

The main players can shout and swear at each other convincingly enough, while O'Connor directs the handful of fight scenes with brutal, almost documentary-style efficiency. But attempts to tap into the emotional complexity at play find everyone wanting, especially during the Romeo & Juliet-style love story, which often feels like an after-thought.

This is never more apparent than during the supposedly big climax, which desperately underwhelms.

KING OF THE TRAVELLERS coming to Irish cinemas 19th April

King of the Travellers

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • Ireland
  • 1h 20min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mark O'Connor
  • Written by: Mark O'Connor
  • Cast: Michael Collins, Thomas Collins, John Connors
  • UK release: 29 March 2013

A young Irish traveller comes up against a Romeo & Juliet situation, and must put to rest a decades-old feud between his family and that of the love of his life.