This is the first movie for Mark O'Connor since his impressive Between the Canals. Out of the traps after the reading of his manifesto for new Irish cinema on the steps of the Town Hall at 2012's Galway Film Fleadh, here he does just enough to show that he may be on to something.
Traveller John Paul Moorehouse (Connors) is still smarting from the shooting of his father ten years ago, a murder he blames on rival travelling family, the Powers. Pushed by his uncle Francis (Collins) into bare-knuckle bouts with the Powers, the hulky John Paul works out some of that pent up aggression. However, when John Paul's love for Winnie Power (McGlynn) flowers and the violence escalates beyond boxing, things turn nasty.
The last few years has seen a rise in interest in the travelling community. 2005 gave us Pavee Lackeen, 2007's Strength And Honour dipped into the world of bare-knuckle boxing and the 2011's Knuckle was a fascinating documentary. Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is proving to be popular viewing too.
The opening sequence displays O'Connor's ambition. A sit-down between travellers, police and a politician over the dispute of land has the director swirl his camera Scorsese-like around the shadowy backroom until it rests on Michael Collins's Francis, who sees himself as the Don of the family. The director then, using one shot, moves proceedings to a hallway and then into a lavish wedding reception. The entire first five minutes is a mixture of Scorsese, Coppola and Cimino and there's no harm in that.
Giddy, the sequence also showcases the future problems the drama would fall prey to however: an overreliance on influences with Romeo & Juliet's star-crossed lovers and a speech that brings to mind On The Waterfront among them. It's when O'Connor delves into the authentic side of things that the movie really shines.
King of the Travellers has verve and, with the likes of the energetic Peter Coonan (Love/Hate, Between The Canals) in the cast, bounces past the more shakier moments.