‘…manages to make a virtue out of a lo-fi aesthetic…’

If you’re going to steal, steal from the best; Gerard Lough’s follow-up to his thriller Night People applies the old maxim with some skill by lifting a key plot structure from William Friedkin’s 1978 film Sorcerer. That film is something of a high-water mark for action cinema, prefacing a dramatic jungle adventure with a lengthy set-up which individually introduces various central characters over a 40 minute period. Lough’s film, largely filmed on a low budget in and around Donegal, attempts a simlarly grand scope, the Irish film-maker deserves kudos for a smart lift from an underrated film.

And Spears, which takes its title from an Emily Brontë  quote, has plenty more going for it; with some international filming on location in London, Berlin and Florence, it’s a step up in production values from Night People, even if it takes place in a similarly dank universe of con-men, treachery and violence. So we meet Kian (Nigel Brennan), who had melted his moral compass as a social-media moderator and now ekes out a living as a dubious private investigator. Cormac (Aidan O’Sullivan) is an arms dealer who gets double-crossed by a client, and Jeff (Bobby Calloway) trawls personal ads looking for lonely women who will fall for his money-grabbing scam. None of these men could be considered to be paragons of virtue, but when each of them fall victim to a long-con, they join together to take revenge on their assailant.

It’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that the eternally sinister Michael Parle, also from Lough’s Night People, is the adversary here, and a tough one to crack; he’s a hardened pro who makes a signature style of being one-step ahead of the game. The struggle between the men has more than a few Blood Simple-style coils to unwind, and Lough makes particularly good use of music and a variety of locations, both in Ireland and abroad, to set the right mood for a twisty-turny narrative.

Spears does triple-duty here, as writer, director and cinematographer, but might need to think a little about length; there’s a few excisable moments here in a 2 hour + running time, including a film-production sub-plot that takes us away from the central narrative when terseness is required. But for a micro-budget thriller, the game cast manage to make an earthy virtue out of a lo-fi aesthetic; Spears suggests a film-maker who is developing his own effective style for telling a tricky story.

Spears plays in select Irish cinemas (Letterkenny and Lifford) from February 18th 2022.


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  1. Takes its title from an Emily Bronte quote? It’s a word. I think they need a bit more to say it comes from any particular source, other than a dictionary.

    Does Britney at least get a cameo?

    • “Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.”
      “Oops, I did it again
      I played with your heart, got lost in the game
      Oh baby, baby
      Oops, you think I’m in love
      That I’m sent from above
      I’m not that innocent”

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