Love/Hate’s Killian Scott eases out his inner Ryan Gosling in this Irish drama set on the Donegal border from director Johnny Gogan. Scott plays Jimmy Devlin, a local boy racer with a scarred face and an attitude problem that enrages the cops on both sides of the border and leaves the local girls longing for a fumble by his dashboard light. He’s a cheeky pup to be sure as he guns his modified black Nissan Skyline, complete with tinted windows, spoilers and red rims, around town, breaking hearts and speed limits.
When he catches the eye of car-mad schoolgirl Alice (newcomer Jane McGrath), you might suspect that it’s all going to end with the whiff of burnt rubber and mangled metal, like a Donegal-set Leader of the Pack. A tale of forbidden romance in small town Ireland may have been the way to go but instead Gogan layers on a parable about the death rattle of the Celtic Tiger, wily Gardaí, and a corrupt local businessman.
A pumping dance soundtrack does add a much-needed edge to the banal automobile worship from the local young petrolheads but, sadly, there is not much to recommend visually about Black Ice as souped-up motors careen down back roads at night in grudge races and scramble about in the local quarry to relieve the boredom.
Shot over three short weeks in a grey and rainy northwest, Gogan has marshalled the young cast well but dialogue like “there’s nothing to do around here” and the deathless “I know a road where the law won’t touch ya” belong in the realm of deftly-handled comic book irony and not in a well-meaning rural Irish drama with a social conscience.
There’s a very interesting role for writer Michael Harding, a man who’s nicked out a new niche in poetic Irish pop psychology, and McGrath shows a lot of promise as street smart Alice. A magnetic Scott as the cold, calculating Jimmy also reveals that there’s a whole lot more to him than Love/Hate’s angst-ridden Tommy.
However, this tale of small town ennui and silly boys speeding in death traps never really shifts out of second gear.