Directed by Stefan Schwartz, starring Daniel Lapaine, Matthew Rhys, Sophia Myles, Alice Evans and Liam Cunningham.
Based on true events, set in 1780 and shot entirely on location in Ireland, 'The Abduction Club' is just calling out to be described as a swashbuckling bodice-ripper, but I'll refrain - for now.
In those days, only the eldest sons of Irish landowners stood to inherit. Unless they could land a wealthy wife, second sons had no choice but to enter the army or the priesthood. Operating within a knife-edge of the law, abduction clubs offered a (barely) tolerated means to an end for these men. Kidnapping the object of his desires, the young man would take her to a secret location where he had until daybreak to persuade her to agree to his hand in marriage. If the suit was successful, a priest would marry the two there and then, if not, the lady would be returned to her home untainted to bask in the risqué notoriety of having been chosen.
Enter the dashing Garret Byrne (Lapaine) - of Byrne Hall, Clonmel - who sets his sights on the beautiful Catherine Kennedy (Evans). But the abduction doesn't go exactly to plan as Byrne arrives with the entire club, beered up and armed with pistols to abduct the object of his desires from a sedate music recital. The members of this club are a rowdy bunch but they do abide by a set of rules: they must act as men of honour - paying for damage to property caused during abductions, they must not take girls who are under 18, and never more than one girl from the same family. But when Byrne's abduction starts to go wrong, his roguish friend James Strang (Rhys) throws caution to the wind, breaking all the rules and abducting Catherine's younger sister Anne (Myles) too.
Ousted from the club, the two find themselves on the run with the feisty and uncooperative Kennedys. Plot twists and bare escapes abound as the four gallop across the misty Irish landscape, the Redcoats - sent by Anne's extremely nasty agreed suitor (Cunningham). Rousing Irish ditties accompany their flight over field and mountain and, with an uncanny Kate Winslet look-alike in Anne (Myles), the swelling of Titanic-esque violins doesn't seem out of place.
Evans' attempts to appear aloof result in an initial lack of on-screen chemistry between Catherine and Byrne, which is only slightly remedied as the older sister begins to thaw. Rhys and Myles, on the other hand, more than make up for the (c)older pair and Liam Cunningham is superb as Anne's evil suitor. Plot twist follows plot twist - most of them predictable - and just when you think it's all over, it's not.
'Shooting Fish' director Stefan Schwartz attempts to give a modern feel to the film by allowing the actors behave like 20th Century people in 1780 fancy dress, but the result is often disconcerting. The period is glossed up for the big screen with the sisters appearing in beautifully clean - not to mention sexy - peasant's clothes when forced to disguise themselves, and tenant's cottages, burnt in the hunt for the fugitives, kept well out of vision. To add insult to injury, the Orish heroes are played by an Australian and a Welshman (the girls are English) - I guess Colin Farrell et al had bigger fish to fry.
It would be easy to pick more holes, but in the end this is nothing more than a harmless romp and a bit of good fun. So if you like your costume drama with a pulse and a predictable ending to warm the cockles of your heart, this film's for you. A swashbuckling bodice-ripper, as they say...