Dublin Oldschool delivers 'Luasspotting' style thrills

Hit play Dublin Oldschool makes a visually stylish transition to the big screen. David Roy enjoyed writer/director Dave Tynan's tale of a drug-fuelled 30-something struggling to stay afloat in Dublin's club scene

Daniel (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and Jason (Emmet Kirwan) face off in Dublin Oldschool

DUBLIN Oldschool might lazily be described as 'Luasspotting', or perhaps 'Dublin Traffic': it's a tale of not-so-young anymore record shop employee and wannabe DJ, Jason (Emmet Kirwin, writer of the stage version who co-wrote the film with Tynan), who's been on 'the session' for so long that he's in danger of burning out.

Friendly but infuriatingly unreliable and hopeless at expressing himself without the aid of illegal emotional laxatives – much to the frustration of his long-suffering ex-girlfriend, Gemma (Seána Kerslake) – Jason has reached the tipping point where the never-ending spiral of clubbing and house parties fuelled by snorting, smoking and boozing now merely provides a convenient escape from his increasingly unpalatable reality.

"You can still have the craic," advises his similarly hedonistic mate Lisa (Sarah Greene), "just try not to have all the craic all at once".

However, Jason seems determined to keep snorting enough ketamine to zonk him into a semi-concious dream state in which we see him revisiting his childhood living room, when happiness was watching RoboCop (accurately described as "the deadliest film ever") with big brother Daniel (Ian Lloyd Anderson) while overdosing on the sugary treats the latter has secretly smuggled into the house.

That last bit is what's called 'foreshadowing': the brothers have become estranged in adulthood and, like the hit two-hander stage production which also starred Kirwin and Anderson (the latter playing multiple parts), Tynan's coming-of-age film revolves around the aftershocks caused by Daniel's unexpected re-entry into his younger sibling's chaotic life.

Dublin Oldschool is quite even handed in depicting the highs and lows of the 'session': we see laughter, mile-wide smiles and general euphoria, along with puking, panic attacks and emotional crashes, while scenes of people snorting drugs in manky toilet cubicles and, at one point, literally off the floor accurately depict the minuscule levels of glamour involved in being on a 'permo'.

The film is populated by a raft of familiar club culture archetypes, played by a quality ensemble of actors also including Mark O’Halloran (Adam & Paul) and Stephen Jones (Love/Hate, Red Rock).

Self-styled party guru 'Dave The Rave' (Liam Heslin) might play like an amalgam of every monged-out raver dude we've ever seen on screen, but his dopy jester-like persona is cannily deployed.

This film can get quite 'heavy' at times, despite snappy dialogue crackling with slaggings and witticisms ("There's never any excuse for a man to take his top off in Dublin") and the odd scene played broadly for laughs – a drugs raid featuring some painfully uncool cops will raise plenty of chuckles among party people.

Dublin Oldschool's stage origins are apparent when the two excellent leads spark off each other face to face. Jason and Daniel engage in a series of heated verbal exchanges in grimy alleyways and on benches in run-down city centre parks, their turbulent backstory gradually teased out as old scores and scabs are tallied and picked at.

However, the film's more kinetic moments are captured with a creative flair that's entirely cinematic. A drugged-out moment involving a grotesquely contorted raver gurning to camera in slo-mo amid a flurry of strobe lighting proves particularly memorable, neatly capturing Jason's emotionally damaged state of mind as he spirals towards the film's climactic reckoning in which he's forced to confront his demons.

As with its touchstone Trainspotting (which gets a knowing nod early doors via a pavement-pounding foot chase), the film-makers pull no punches with their characters' authentic accents.

While there's the odd word, phrase or line of inpenetrable Dublinese that's likely to puzzle non-partisan audiences, those paying attention to the performances should be able to follow the emotional and dramatic trajectory of the film without much trouble.

Aside from some slightly cringeworthy 'internal dialogue' delivered via the medium of rap poetry, Dublin Oldschool is a stylish and engaging trawl through the nocturnal underbelly of Ireland's capital anchored by superb performances by Emmet Kirwin and Ian Lloyd Anderson.

RATING: 8/10

:: Dublin Oldschool opens at QFT Belfast tonight; book online at Read our interview with Dave Tynan in next week's Thursday Review section.

DUBLIN OLDSCHOOL (Cert TBC, 95mins), Drama. Emmet Kirwin, Ian Lloyd Anderson, Sarah Greene, Seána Kerslake, Mark O’Halloran, Stephen Jones, Liam Heslin. Director: Dave Tynan


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