A conventional thriller in an unconventional setting, Black 47 lays the bleakness on pretty thick to establish the woeful world in which we find ourselves. War, famine, greed, wrath – the seven sins, the four horsemen, they’ve all rocked up to 1847 as Martin Feeney returns home from overseas. Unfortunately, despite the endless shots of barren fields and starving peasants, Black 47 drives the message home twice over through dire and weighty exposition. Lowlights include our lead straight-up asking “What happened to the potatoes?” and decrying the unequal nature of the world: “When I do it, it’s murder – when they do it, they call it war.”
Feeney cuts a bloody path through the hills, leading to some gripping set pieces and gruesome crime scenes. That’s not to say we necessarily care about his quest – as Feeney, James Frecheville is stoic to the point of looking inanimate (a lesser review might say potato-like). Feeney’s inert resolve causes Black 47 struggles in its second act, as his showy killing spree feels less and less motivated.
As his relentless pursuer, Hugo Weaving brings his dependable gravitas, even as he chews over an unnecessary accent. As for the female roles – there aren’t any, beyond a smattering of wailing peasants and one fridged – literally – sister-in-law. As Black 47 is only tied to a period, not a specific true story, it would have been easy to form a more diverse cast of characters, but by no means is 47 the first or last period drama to waste this kind of opportunity.
Ham-fisted dialogue aside, Martin Feeney’s crusade to put the world to rights is undeniably entertaining, if clumsily told. A formidable ensemble cast prop up smaller roles, and by the final act Black 47 throws the dialogue aside to focus on taut and gripping action sequences.
CAST: James Frecheville, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Freddie Fox, Stephen Rea, Barry Keoghan
DIRECTOR: Lance Daly
WRITERS: Lance Daly, P.J. Dillon
SYNOPSIS: Set in Ireland during the Great Famine, the drama follows an Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, as he abandons his post to reunite with his family – only to find home has changed since his time abroad.