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Belfast Boys

Nothing Personal
On Top of the Volcano: Protestant toughs James Frain (right) and Ruaidhi Conroy try to sort out the violence in the streets of Ireland.

It's everyone's fault in Thaddeus O'Sullivan's'Nothing Personal'

By Richard von Busack

THE NEW IRISH FILM Nothing Personal opens with the appropriate quote from Yeats' "The Second Coming" and an explosion as a Protestant bar gets a one-minute renovation by a Catholic bomb. Set in Belfast in 1975, Nothing Personal is based on Daniel Mornin's novel "All Our Fault"; unlike most of the films about the Irish troubles, Mornin's story focuses not on the IRA but on the Protestant paramilitary gangs. The outbreak of fighting triggered by the bombing is guided by the elder leadership of the Protestant Loyalists (particularly Michael Gambon, magisterial as always). Ginger (Ian Hart), a member of the gang of young hot-heads Gambon supervises, is going psychotic; Kenny (James Frain), Ginger's friend and fellow soldier, has been ordered to cut Ginger loose, to "put him to sleep." In a subplot, the single parent Michael (John Lynch), a noncombatant sucked into a street riot, not only falls in with Ginger's gang but almost has a kiss with Kenny's estranged wife.

The usually trustworthy Hart is dirty fun as a psycho "nauseating shite," to quote one of the characters, and the film could have used much more of Cathy White, who plays a once-pretty floozy in orange who sings a Protestant dirge titled "Billy McFadzean." Mornin's screenplay is appropriately hard-boiled ("Ye'll be playin' football in no time," some thugs tell a man just before they kneecap him), but the mood matches the title. Director Thaddeus O'Sullivan isn't cold-hearted enough to revel in the violence, but he's too conscientious not to put it all up on screen. To a foreigner, the film is not much more than one act of violence topped with other, sometimes as a spectator sport, sometimes a nose-rubbing.

Nothing Personal (Unrated; 85 min.), directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan, written by Daniel Mornin, photographed by Dick Pope and starring Ian Hart, James Frain and Michael Gambon.

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From the June 5-11, 1997 issue of Metro

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