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Crush Proof Review

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Neal, a charismatic but violent young man, has just been released from prison and determined to see the baby son he's never met. Far more important for him, however, are his plans to start up again where he left off, and rejoin his friends, riding horse roughshod and barebacked around the back streets of Dublin.

★★★★★

If you only see one film about inner city cowboys from Dublin council estates, make sure it's Tickell's urban Western. Like some latter-day Billy The Kid, Neal (Healy) comes out of jail and goes back to his lawless ways. Denied access to his baby son, he causes "a domestic", swipes a mobile phone and hooks up with bad company, Liam (O'Toole) and Sean (Dunne) who inform him his mare is dead. Raging against the world, he rides out to take revenge on the drug-dealing partner who betrayed him, but the plan goes tragically awry and with a Gardai posse tracking his gang, Neal is soon knock, knock, knocking on prison's door again. There's a girl, of course, an alcoholic father who can't remember his son's name and - in a nice touch - a lesbian mother who wants to forget he exists.

The beauty of Tickell's ingenious debut is that he achieves so much with no obvious resources except for his own keen eye for details and a response to the surroundings. The poetic iconography of horses and concrete, motorways and wide open spaces, is backed by electrically-charged set pieces which include a pulse quickening chase between a steed and a motorbike and a well-mounted riot sequence which captures the action with savage immediacy.

On the minus, the erratic editing doesn't do as much for cohesion as it does for the hurtling energy of the piece and the heightened verbal lyricism, tumbling from the mouths of tearaways, has a more portentous ring to it than when the dialogue sticks to the snarled realism of working-class Dublin. 'There are rough edges to be sure, but the young cast display true grit.

A raw-boned, knuckle-bruising, dream-like ballad of doomed youth whose pure horse power, unbridled though it often is, leaves many a lame Hollywood teen flick in the paddock.