Peter Foot’s debut feature The Young Offenders is a shaggy, freewheeling tale of two Irish youths, determined to fix their lot in life by stealing two bikes and cycling to the seaside where 440 million Euro’s of cocaine has recently washed ashore.
We first pick up with Conor MacSweeney and Jock Murphy (Alex Murphy and Chris Walley respectively) with the latter cajoling the former into describing what he would do with one million Euros. The back and forth between the two establishes a matey, easy going and genuine relationship that holds up well throughout this kind of road trip, kind of coming of age comedy.
Neither of the fifteen year olds have what you might call great lives. Conor’s mother does her best after the loss of his father and he spends his days helping her out on the fish stand of the local market. Jock, the nominal troublemaker and arch bike thief has a worse lot, stuck with his abusive, alcoholic father after his mother’s departure. Both long for something other than their upcoming school exams. When Jock spots a news item talking about the cocaine seizure, it’s not long before they set off on stolen bikes to claim their treasure. Pursued of course by a particularly single-minded garda.
Foot’s movie is tonally all over the place but the one thing it manages to keep together is a fantastic sense of camaraderie between his two central characters and the lads are great value for it. The script is occasionally laugh out loud funny and although the darker moments don’t really click into place with the laddishness, a touchingly relatable scene between Conor and his mam near the end really makes you realise that this one has its heart firmly in the right place. And the fate of the treasure in question leads to one of the funniest one liners I’ve heard in a long time.