Review by Cahal Smith
Paul Morris’ directorial debut enthrals Glasgow Film Theatre audience into a standing ovation.
As one of the films chosen to be showcased as part of the celebrated Glasgow Film Festival, the eyes of many were on Paul Morris’ coming-of-age gangland comedy Angry Young Men. Morris’ directorial debut is a feat of immense proportions: it was made on a self-funded budget of just £5000, it stars a cast with little previous acting experience and took an arduous six years to make. However, Angry Young Men obliterates these obstacles and delivers a film that is truly hilarious, yet also gripping.
Angry Young Men takes place in Mauchton, a fictional and desolate town in which the local goings-on are controlled by a beret-wearing gang named The Bramble Boys. However, this authority comes under threat when rival ski mask-clad gang The Campbell Group arrive with an intent to recruit new members and take over the territory. The Bramble Boys, led by Jimmy who is played by Morris, must make use of their smarts and resources to defend their control of Mauchton and avoid a gang war.
Despite plot descriptions making the film sound like a fairly run of the mill gangster flick, Angry Young Men is able to differentiate itself from the pack exceptionally. Morris is able to blend the film’s often surreal but also wonderfully Scottish, wry humour with at times, unrelenting gang violence in such a remarkably fluid style. For example, The Campbell Group may appear bizarre and foolish with their appearance, however, scenes of their nefarious deeds are accompanied with a piercing score composed by Morris and Patrick Boland.
The film’s tone is also able to change incredibly smoothly. Morris’ astute scriptwriting allows scenes to transition from light-hearted comedic moments to downright sinister at times. The strongest example of this comes when we see Jimmy humorously arguing with one half of the Breslin brothers, who are fantastic side characters, over whether or not he will wear the Bramble Boys’ signature beret. However, the scene changes at the flick of a switch when we hear that the Campbell Group have arrived with huge numbers in tow, ready for a gang battle.
As a comedy at heart, one of the film’s main strengths is how funny it is. Angry Young Men is absolutely hilarious and had the audience at the Glasgow Film Theatre laughing unanimously throughout. One of the film’s funniest scenes came just a few minutes in, where we were introduced to Bramble Boys leader Jimmy and his main lieutenants: Don, Vic, and Sid, all of whom are brilliant. The scene sees the foursome bickering over how to cook a fry-up as well as discuss their gang actions, with some priceless descriptions of Mauchton’s residents and their behaviour.
Overall, it is important not to underestimate just how great of an achievement Angry Young Men being brought to the big screen is. With its miniscule budget, Morris should be applauded for making it work so successfully. However, the film should also be used as an example to any aspiring filmmakers out there. All films, no matter how big the budget, start with an idea. Once you have that idea in your mind, go out and try make to make it into something. You never know what can happen.