The underbelly of inner city Dublin is no stranger to the big or small screen but what makes Mark O'Connor's debut feature stand out is the credibility of his characters and dialogue. Akin to Lenny Abrahamson's highly acclaimed TV series 'Prosperity', O'Connor's film is pacey, gritty and unafraid to reveal the violence, depravity and humour of urban life.
It's set on Saint Patrick's Day when small time criminals Liam (Hyland), Dots (Coonan) and Scratcher (Jones) are each on a mission. Dots plays hard at playing hard while Scratcher wants to get what he can by doing as little as possible. However, Liam realises that they have arrived at the biggest crossroads of their lives and yet decides to ignore reality so he can hang out with his mates, until he's backed into a corner.
Liam's uncle was a powerful local gangster who was murdered for forgetting to limit his business activities to the area between the Grand and Royal canals, hence the title of the film. When Liam is offered the opportunity to take over his patch, he is too busy dodging Dots' bullets to contemplate the offer.
The fact that Liam's girlfriend is receiving money from a local gangster, Chambers (Dempsey), isn't helping matters. Liam has one chance to get away from this life of crime - if he isn't killed first - and to create a future for himself and those he loves. But it's St Patrick's Day and there's no time to act, just react.
In order to have the future he wants, Liam will have to outgrow the friendships from his past. It's only a matter of time before this extreme coming of age story gives these three pals a rude awakening, and the playacting boys are forced to realise that they are men whose lives are on the line.
Shot on location in city centre Dublin, Dave Grennan's cinematography reveals the harsh side of the capital, hidden away from Irish tourist brochures but which exists nonetheless.
Grennan's lens takes viewers around the flats, back alleys and through secret doorways to shake hands with some of the familiar characters of Dublin's underworld, where the only law is their own. He also captures the unique atmosphere in the city at the parade through some great real-life footage which director O'Connor blends perfectly with his story.
The fight scenes are more disturbing than the usual choreographed, big screen skirmishes, because they look, and sound, real. As do the locals: the small budget wasn't needlessly stretched to cover a voice coach as the cast all appear to be true Dubs, each one more convincing than the next. The three leads give such gripping and realistic performances that audiences may well go searching for their faces on the streets of Dublin during the St Patrick's Day festivities!
The film's soundtrack is an inviting blend of new and old Irish trad and folk music, including some of Damien Dempsey's own popular ballads.
Aside from the fact that Dempsey makes his acting debut as gang leader Chambers, there's little that Irish, and Dublin audiences in particular, haven't seen before, either on screen or, perhaps, first hand.
However, international audiences may well be intrigued to see what life in parts of inner city Dublin can be like: crime-ridden, poverty-stricken, drink and drug-riddled and recession-reeling, but with lots of likeable characters, rich in wit and humour. Although subtitles might be in order.