The Young Offenders follows the cross-county journey of two teenage scoundrels (Conor & Jock) as they hatch a plan to escape their troubled family lives by finding a bale of cocaine that may or may not have washed up on the West Cork coast and selling it for some quick cash.
When we think of Irish comedies, the very large percentage of them are set either in Dublin or in some sort of caricature of it. The odd time, here and there, anything outside of the Pale is seen as vast wilderness. With that in mind, it's heartening to see a film - specifically, a comedy - set in Ireland's second city (or the Real Capital, depending on who you ask) and filled to brim with Cork's unique and blackened sense of humour.
The premise of the Young Offenders is bracingly simple - two teenage offenders come up with a half-formed scheme to steal a bale of cocaine that capsized from a drug smuggler's trawler and leave their dreary lives behind. Of course, the execution of the plan is where it becomes more difficult. Jock (Chris Walley) and Conor (Alex Murphy) are two lovable dumba***es who are barely able to make it through life, let alone take on the world of international drug-smuggling. Their simplicity doesn't even allow them to see a fault in the plan or even what they're going to do with the cocaine once they get it - it's simply get the cocaine and boom, they've got €7,000,000 to build a giant house with a butler overlooking Cork City. Chasing them is a hard-bitten career cop (Dominic MacHale) who's obsessed with bicycle theft and determined to stop them, going to insane lengths (well, a tracking device) to apprehend them.
The interplay between Jock and Conor is the centre of the film and it's so effortless and easy-looking that you'd truly believe Chris Walley and Alex Murphy have known each other for years and, more specifically, that they truly aren't that removed from their characters. Both of them mark themselves out as talents to watch for the future, especially considering this is the first film. Even their scenes with Dominic MacHale's near-crazed Garda are hilarious, especially one scene which sees them attempting to recreate the Coffee Scene from Michael Mann's Heat in order to get him off their back. Meanwhile, Conor's mother, played by Republic of Telly alum Hilary Rose, is becoming increasingly worried - despite the fact she spends most of the film berating both Jock and Conor. PJ Gallagher, meanwhile, turns up in the second act as a crippled drug dealer who's recovered a bale and spends the rest of the film tracking Jock and Conor with a nailgun. One scene, in particular, sees him acquiring said nailgun in a blackly funny manner.
Director Peter Foott knows that if the comedy lapses or slows down, even for an instant, all that momentum goes out the window and the film will come screeching to a halt. Instead, with sharp, precise editing and real sense of comedic timing, he's able to blast through scenes with a willing and able cast to deliver a finely honed comedy with no fat on it. It's clear that Foott is taking from the Judd Apatow School of Comedy, allowing the actors to bounce several takes and lines off each other to see what works and then cutting it in the editing room. What makes the film move so well is that Foott doesn't allow any one scene to linger any longer than necessary. Once it's done, it's on to the next one. The screenplay, which he also wrote, has a simplicity to it that does, admittedly, make the film feel a little stale in parts. It works off a formula of they get into trouble, but their friendship and bond gets them out of it. The film repeats this down the line, but it's a minor complaint in what is otherwise one of the finest comedies Ireland has produced in quite a while.