King of The TravellersFriday 19 Apr 2013
Director: Mark O'Connor
Starring: Peter Coonan, John Connors, Carla McGlynn, Michael Collins
Duration: 80 minutes
In skin-tight white jeans, a handlebar moustache, and a rammed-on pork pie hat, Peter Coonan is the charismatic heart of Mark O'Connor's family drama set in the Traveller community. He plays Mickey "The Bags" Moorehouse, a kind of hyper-real version of Fran, the irascible criminal Coonan has made so very compelling on Love/Hate.
Mickey is an adopted member of the Moorehouse family and he's got serious identity issues. It makes him a very loose cannon when it comes to his family's on-going feud with the Powers, a rival clan battling for supremacy in the local area.
Reputation is everything and for the Moorehouses it rests on the young but burly shoulders of John Paul, played by impressive newcomer John Connors. Matters of honour are settled in bare-knuckle showdowns and while JP is good with his fists, he quotes Wilde and talks about Mandela too.
So it's the Ewings versus the Barnes all over again or maybe it's more Capulets and Montagues. O'Connor, who also directed Coonan in Dublin crime drama Between The Canals, also wrote the script and he draws liberally from the inter-family warfare of Coppola's seventies' mafia epics, On The Waterfront, and, when young JP falls for a Powers' girl, Romeo and Juliet.
In admirable Ken Loach style, real members of the Traveller community make up much of the cast and O'Connor deftly weaves the storylines involving that festering family dispute, the tale of forbidden love, and a Nimby local landowner who uses strong-arm tactics.
As well as goblets of blood and poitin (and mustard-coloured Nissan vans), King of the Travellers also has a good slathering of humour, mostly when Coonan is capering about acting as mad as a bag of spiders.
It's about as subtle as a bare-knuckle jab in the gob and in places, the script clanks like an old gypsy wagon but the magnetic Coonan and the gutsy Connors just about save the whole thing from sinking too far into cliché.