Director: Lance Daly
Writers: Lance Daly, P.J. Dillon (story by)
Stars: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea
Ask any Irish person what the cause of the famine was and they should be able to mumble something about Potato blight and Laissez Faire economics! For Irish people, the famine is something we learned about at school with a mix of disbelief, disdain and shock. It’s a period of our past that is hard to believe ever happened. The thought of making a film out of it is equally difficult as no normal story arc would seem to fit! There is also the danger of trivialising it, and even 170 years on it could seem a bit too soon. Filmmaker Lance Daly seemed to take these difficulties as a challenge when making Black 47 which is released today.
The film is about Feeney (James Frecheville), an Irish man who served with the English army overseas. He has returned to Ireland during the cruel winter of 1847 to see the damage the famine has caused to the people of Ireland and in particular his own family. He’s shocked by what he finds, with his family dead or dying. In a fit of rage, he sets out to find and kill those responsible for these atrocities, namely the English gentry who let them starve!
This film falls into the classic revenge genre, a B-movie style revitalised by Tarantino in recent years with Django Unchained. It’s just hard to believe that’s what we’re seeing in this instance! The film has an impressive cast with Stephen Rea playing Connelly, a hapless man who serves as a guide and translator for the English. Hugo Weaving plays Hannah, an old army man who was once a friend of Feeney but now helps in the search for him. Barry Keoghan also has a small part as Hobson and does well with it.
The film certainly has its moments and is possibly best served by the action scenes, which are strangely enjoyable. The cast are of mixed ability but Stephen Rea is impressive as the elusive Connelly, a man who straddles both sides of the English/ Irish divide. The most unusual thing about this film is that it actually exists! It’s hard to believe someone managed to make an action film out of the Irish famine! Easily one of the oddest Irish film releases of recent years.