“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” – Mandy Hale
It becomes quite clear early on in this tale of wanton violence that not all are created equal and not all fit into such a grotesque, unforgiving underworld. The Shadow of Violence makes the outcast of a criminal syndicate its main focus, a man who once boxed now uses his violent skills as a collector and messenger of sorts. He is big, intimidating, and absolutely not to be crossed. But what his cohorts have failed to take notice of, or rather they simply don’t care about, is his calm, delicate demeanor. Bluntly known as Arm, Douglas is a man with violence in his past and a desire to leave that life behind. His son is autistic and needs special schooling while his estranged significant other is practically thrown into convulsions at the very sight of him. She knows about the people he works for and the kind of “business” he’s involved in and wants absolutely none of it around her or their son. He agrees with her but without ever finding his own voice he’s never truly stood up for himself. In a single moment he finally chooses rather than reacts and his life is forever changed as a result.
What struck me not only first but most is the demeanor of this violently perceived young man who with so little dialogue conveys so much emotion. Douglas, played by Cosmo Jarvis is an absolute revelation as he carries seemingly the world on his broad shoulders. He evokes such pain and listlessness and an earnestness to change and it is absolutely heartbreaking. He is truly brilliant as a man written off as dimwitted bubbling beneath the surface with nuance and complexity. As he raises his fists ready to beat some unlucky individual into a chunky pulp, you see this hesitation in his eyes as if he himself is questioning every decision he’s making under the ever-watchful eyes of a deplorable crime boss. He is the most feared presence in the room and the most misunderstood.
Nick Rowland captures Ireland in a way that feels as if only a local could interpret their own home. He directs with a compassionate but purposeful hand showcasing both the inhumanity of criminality and the delicate touch of a father still learning how to be comfortable with someone so fragile and in need of constant attention. A lot of times when a real location is chosen for a film, the most iconic areas of whatever country or city or suburb are opted for the settings and backdrops. I live in Las Vegas for example, and anyone not from here automatically pictures one thing above all else and this is because of movies. I’m not complaining, I’m simply saying that with films like The Shadow of Violence it feels as if the locations chosen are places no visitor would ever journey to due to its rural location or seedy appearance. As a result the world of these fictional characters feels authentic, it is lived in. With such authenticity in the performances and validity in the settings it all combines for one honest and inexorable tale of self redemption.
If you want to root for the good guy, their antithesis must be as equally if not more immoral and unlikable as the protagonist, in this case Doug, is good and decent. The men who took Douglas under their tutelage only to betray everything they stood for as propped up, false men with dignity and humility are the reason for so much turmoil brewing within Douglas. He knows the consequences for betraying these men but also fully understands the ramifications of continuing this kind of hopeless existence. They are aimless in their anger and bloodthirsty in their retribution through both money extraction and copious amounts of bodily harm.
It would seem obvious which life to choose by an outsider, that of a violent, purposeless shell of a man or a life of tranquility with their loved ones. But as Douglas knows nothing but the fist to face way of life his hesitation to change it despite an abhorrence for such behavior is palpable and tragic all its own. You can practically hear his heart tearing into multiple directions as he stresses to choose one life over the other. With his family he feels like an outsider whereas with those ordering him to viciously deliver messages to people he has a strange comfort in the familiarity of it all. He also knows that such a life isn’t sustainable forever and eventually something will go wrong and his perceived world will be over, forever.
The Shadow of Violence isn’t a celebration of violence but rather a condemnation of it. By showing the brutality of it as a juxtaposition to something as peaceful as his own son riding a horse the negativity and poisonous nature of his criminal living becomes even more horrendous. Cosmo Jarvis is a highlight and a new voice for which I am ecstatic to hear more of and the premise of him finding a new character with more lines to really chew on is genuinely exciting to consider. Featuring a somewhat familiar but largely unknown cast, The Shadow of Violence is dramatic, honest storytelling about a mindless henchman finding their true purpose in an otherwise unfocused and harsh world.
Rated R For: some strong violence, pervasive language, drug use and brief nudity
Runtime: 100 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Crime, Drama
Starring: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Liam Carney, Toni O’Rourke
Directed By: Nick Rowland
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 4.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Now available on Amazon Prime Video.
Check out the trailer below:
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