Jason and Benson are two cash-strapped young men who take on a simple job with a big payout working for some dangerous people, coming with three basic rules of what not to do. When something inevitably goes wrong, they are sucked into a spiralling criminal vortex that seems increasingly unlikely to let them leave alive.
After spending a few years writing and directing short films, former video game developer Paddy Murphy delivers his feature debut, and like the nocturnal drive that kicks off the plot, The Three Don’ts is a straightforward concept that gradually reveals myriad layers backing it.
It has the same surreal state of altered reality as a Coen Brothers comedy, but encrusted in a coat of corrupting darkness after being filtered through the lo-fi grindhouse sleaze of the Soska Sisters’ debut Dead Hooker in a Trunk. The assorted cast of ruthless drug dealers, maniac assassins, traveller thugs and criminal kingpins are each exaggerated to the point of hyper-intensity, yet manage to remain on just the right side of caricature that prevents the noir tale from deteriorating into a blood-drenched farce. As the two reprobates are pulled ever deeper into an underworld of callous iniquity, they stumble their way through deadly encounters they barely have the intellect to comprehend, let alone navigate, yet despite the odds always seem to make it out the other side, battered and bloody but still breathing. Nevertheless, there is maintained a pervasive tension stemming from knowing that a small screwup at just the wrong moment would be all it takes for their frantic knife-edge improvising to be brought to an unceremonious and gory end.
In a movie populated almost entirely by pitiless and thoroughly unpleasant individuals, Jason and Benson are virtual innocents. The two are the closest things it has to heroes, while the utter unlikeability of everyone else works to its advantage, since when you watch horrible people doing nasty things to each other, you can simply revel in the sheer brutality without concern over who will win out, feeling neither sympathy for the victims nor vindication for the inflictors.
As for the fighting itself, while low-budget films are often diminished by unconvincing action sequences, here the choreography is far more credible than you’d expect, and is doubly notable from being far more akin to genuine fights than movies often portray. Like brawls in real life, these are short, inelegant, unwieldy altercations where each victor barely comes out on top, thus maintaining the tone of gritty realism that grounds the film’s inherent absurdity.
Coarse, crude and unrelenting, The Three Don’ts is a brutal and compelling sucker punch of a debut, and one that promises great things to follow from its emerging talent.
THE THREE DON’TS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PADDY MURPHY, BRIAN CLANCY, ERIC CLANCY / STARRING: BRIAN CLANCY, NATHAN WONG, ADAM MOYLAN, CONOR HAYES, COURTNEY MCKEON, BEN YAU / RELEASE DATE: TBC (PREORDERS AVAILABLE)