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FW Weekly The Ups of Down

'I Went Down' is rich in what you might call captive humor

By Joe Leydon

There's a touch of Jim Jarmusch's deadpan absurdism in I Went Down, along with a sprinkling of Bill Forsyth's melancholy whimsy. And that, mind you, is just part of the reason this beguilingly offbeat Irish import is so much fun. Directed by Paddy Breathnach from a screenplay by Conor McPherson, the movie is a robustly droll comedy-drama that spins a sly shaggy-dog story about disorganized crime.

Git Hynes (Peter McDonald) is a soft-spoken, well-meaning fellow who's just out of prison after serving time for someone else's petty theft. His reflexive decency is admirable, but often inconvenient. When he honorably attempts to save a romantic rival from the henchmen of Tom French (Tony Doyle), a Dublin crime boss, Git is forced to perform a favor for French: He must track down one of the gangster's former associates, Frank Grogan (Peter Caffrey), for a settling of old debts.

Git is extremely reluctant to involve himself in this dirty work, and even more reluctant to be partnered with Bunny Kelly (Brendan Gleeson), a burly hot-head with a sweet tooth and a belligerent manner. In the course of their travels, Bunny takes it upon himself to teach Git how to be a suitably cynical tough guy. Unfortunately, his words of wisdom - "No goods, no black pudding!" - often are more confusing than illuminating. Even so, the two men begin to confide in each other, and their wary bonding emerges as the heart of the film.

Almost in spite of themselves, Git and Bunny manage to locate Frank, a conniving chatterbox who has ample reason to fear a reunion with French. (In addition to hiding some profits from a long-ago enterprise, Frank has slept with the gangster's wife.) Naturally, Frank tries to talk his way out of captivity, and, just as naturally, Git and Bunny do their best to hold on to him while making their way back to Dublin.

I Went Down covers familiar ground, but it takes many amusing detours along the way. The dialogue is profanely funny, the characters are vividly drawn and the story's resolution is thoroughly satisfying. Even though some of the dialogue is rendered almost incomprehensible by their thick Irish accents, Gleeson and McDonald are engaging enough to encourage an audience to make the extra effort to understand just what they're saying.

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