Cardboard Gangsters is a movie about four young Dubliners who get caught up in the mirky world of drugs and organised crime. When I first saw the promo trailer for the movie I was concerned that it was going to glamourise organised crime in Ireland. Watching the movie for the first time on Netflix last night I was relieved to see that it did quite the opposite — it portrayed the lives of those who get caught up in drugs and crime as being completely miserable.
The movie made a great job of highlighting some of the really challenging circumstances that many Irish people find themselves living in today too. I’m quite sure (or at least I’d like to believe) that most people don’t set out to get involved with drugs, crime or to land themselves in debt to gangsters. The unfortunate reality of life is that for many people these circumstances can be unavoidable irrespective of their background or geographic location.
John Connors absolutely deserved to win an IFTA for best actor for creating a character who could be believed, understood and even respected, despite his deplorable behaviour in the story. Connors achieved this success because of the way he managed to bring and blend intelligence, raw emotion, energy and empathy into the role.
To be clear, I’m by no means condoning or endorsing organised crime or drug dealing but I don’t believe that Connors or the movie were either. The respect I’m referring to is based on the fact that I was able to recognise that Connors character, Jay, was clearly trying to do the right thing by the people closest to him, even though the decisions he took and actions he carried out (in their so called interests) were completely misguided.
I was left with the feeling that character Connors portrayed, was just trying to survive in extremely difficult circumstances. Despite appearing to possess an inherent decency, he just made some terrible life decisions, inspired by the craziness of the world he found himself born into.
This is where the empathy comes in — the ability to share an insight from someone else’s perspective in a manner that can at least leave an audience with an understanding of the true nature and motivation of a character, even if they can’t forgive or condone it.
Tip of the hat John Connors — you are destined for really big things young man! Cardboard Gangsters is available now to watch on Netflix.