Review of Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh: Cardboard Gangsters



Straight Outta Darndale – Conor Dowling joins the gang and takes a look at Mark O’Connor’s Cardboard Gangsters, which premiered at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

In all the years I’ve been to the Galway Film Fleadh, I have never seen a screening with more buzz about it than this year’s premiere of Mark O’Connor’s latest film Cardboard Gangsters. From the pre-party in the Roisin Dubh to the massive queue outside the town hall, filled with eager viewers anticipating the world premiere of the film, to the palpable atmosphere and buzz of the audience during the film, this screening was clearly the biggest spectacle of the festival this year.

John Connors plays Jay Connolly, a part-time DJ and low-level drug dealer in Darndale, an area victimized by gangs, drugs and social problems. When his welfare is cut off he decides it’s time to enter the big leagues with his gang, in order to help settle his family’s debts. His actions attract the attention of the local drug kingpin Derra Murphy, who rules Darndale with an iron fist and has no problems eliminating any potential rivals.

Jay knows he’s playing a dangerous game and struggles to balance his family’s debts, his pregnant girlfriend and the small drug empire he and his gang of childhood friends begin to build. Events spiral out of control when Jay becomes involved with Derra’s wife, and his gang are thrust in harm’s way. Jay is left with a momentous choice to be made: to exact revenge, or turn the other cheek.

Reminiscent of the beloved hood movies of the ’90s – Boyz in The Hood, Menace II Society and a little bit of Friday – this modern-day cautionary tale of small-time drug dealers flying too close to the sun kept the audience hooked for its duration. John Connors, a working-class hero as it were, has proven himself again as a co-writer and a leading man with moments both intense and tender in his portrayal of the Darndale dealer. However, an awkward sex scene midway through the film may have shown us a side of Connors and his character we could have done without. The main body of the story takes inspiration from Connors’ own experiences growing up, and even some of the film’s more bizarre moments, such as a chainsaw attack, stabbings and someone being tortured with an angle grinder hold some basis in reality. Connors’ engaging performance is a clear result of his personal connection to the material under guidance from an experienced director.

It wouldn’t be a Mark O’Connor film without some inclusion of celebrated Northside troubadour Damien Dempsey. Dempsey not only appears in a small speaking role in the film, but his song “Serious” provides the soundtrack for a stunning and stylish music sequence during a memorable drug-dealing montage, one of the best musical sequences I have seen in a film in a long time. To add to the authenticity of the film, the entire soundtrack features Irish artists with many of the rap artists from Darndale where the film is set. The sound of modern Irish rap and dance music really nails the tone of the film and stood out as a clear highlight of the film.

Produced by Stalker Films and Five Knight Films in association with Filmbase, Cardboard Gangsters boasts an ensemble cast featuring co-writer John Connors (Love/Hate), Toni O’Rourke (What Richard Did), Kierston Wareing (Eastenders), Fionn Walton (Get Up And Go), Jimmy Smallhorn (Clean Break),  Fionna Hewitt-Twamley (Red Rock), Gemma-Leah Deveraux (Stitches), Graham Earley (Monged), to name but a few. Fionn Walton’s explosive performance as Dano, hot-headed best friend of John Connors, hit all the marks and delighted audiences every time he appeared on screen. Walton’s portrayal of the Northside petty criminal stole the show with an intense performance that kept the audience on the edge of their seats and cracked people up with moments of skilled comedic delivery. Fionn is one to watch.

The energetic pace of the story is maintained by slick cinematography from Michael Lavelle (Patrick’s Day). Many choreographed one-take shots were executed skilfully which complemented the style and energy of the film. This colourful visual portrayal of Dublin crime is a welcome contribution to Irish cinema and brings a strong element of fun to this film.

Though the film shines a light on the crime of the Northside area, at times it is difficult to distinguish whether or not this story glorifies the good life to be had as a drug dealer or sincerely warns of the repercussions of the lifestyle. The accents, hair styles, clothes and music portrayed in the film were spot on and anyone who has grown up in similar areas will attest to the authenticity of the portrayal of this world.

The film is due for cinema release in October and based on the audience reaction in Galway, I highly recommend seeing this exciting film with a crowd. It is sure to appeal to a large audience in Ireland and abroad and I look forward to what all involved will show us next.


Cardboard Gangsters screened on Saturday, 9th July 2016 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.




Interview: Richard Bolger, producer of ‘Cardboard Gangsters’



Stalker Films and Five Knight Films in association with Filmbase present Mark O’Connor’s latest feature Cardboard Gangsters. The film introduces us to a group of young men who attempt to gain control of the drug trade in Darndale, chasing the glorified lifestyle of money, power and sex.

Film Ireland caught up with producer Richard Bolger ahead of the film’s premiere at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.


Described in the Galway Film Fleadh programme as “an intoxicating blend of high-octane violence and crime and a sobering condemnation of the circumstances that trap people in the lifestyle with no hope of escape”, Richard Bolger, the producer of Cardboard Gangsters, explains that the film is “the story of four best friends who form a gang in Darndale. They start off selling marijuana before things start to get a bit more serious and the main character Jay, who has a kid, has to get out as the situation becomes more dangerous when they start stealing heroin.”

Jay is played by John Connors, who was involved in the script with writer/director Mark O’Connor. The pair had originally worked together on Stalker and King of the Travellers. “The original idea for Cardboard Gangsters was John’s,” Richard explains. “Mark came on board and the two of them co-wrote the script. John was thinking that maybe he would do it himself and then the idea got bigger and bigger and he brought the project to Mark. Both of them have a huge love of the gangster genre. John started writing it around King of the Travellers in 2012 and we started shooting  in September 2015 for just over 3 weeks.”

The film boasts an impressive cast alongside John. Fionn Walton (What Richard Did) plays fellow gang member Dano. Irish rappers Lethal Dialect and Ryan Lincoln complete the gang. Kiersten Warren (Fishtank) is joined by Damien Dempsey and Jimmy Smallhorne who plays Derra – Jay’s nemesis. The cast also includes Stephen Clinch (Love/Hate), plus Gemma-Leah Devereux, Corey McKinley Lydia McGuinnessand Graham Earley amongst others.

“It’s a huge and talented cast, “Richard says. “The first AD, Craig Kenny, said to me that we probably had more in the movie than you’d have in a season of Game of Thrones. That’s down to the story and the different characters the guys meet along the way, be it opposite rival gangs, friends, and the like. Obviously, the guys are dealing drugs so through that there’s a lot of people that they meet for small periods in the film.”

The title of the film is a Dublin phrase for wannabe gangsters. Richard explains that the gang “are not really gangsters; they just want the lifestyle. They are not the most organised professional outfit. They are not like the Joker’s gang at the beginning of the The Dark Knight. These guys couldn’t come up with a plan like that!”

The look of the film was created with the assistance of Irish cinematographer Michael Lavelle, who Richard is quick to praise. “He’s done such amazing stuff. He worked with Terry McMahon on Patricks Day and that’s how Mark got to work with him. Terry just said you’ve got to work with this guy. The visuals were a huge concern for Mark on this project. Gangster films look a certain way. They need to look slick and we knew these characters wanted to be like them so they had to be shot and had to be framed in a certain way. Getting Michael on board was a huge step to achieve that. He knows what is going on and the dynamic of a scene and he can figure how to work it. Mark and him watched an awful lot of films together discussing things that they felt would work for this film.”

Talking about the music, Richard says, “we were blessed on this film. We have Darklands Audio. There’s a real talented guy there called Daniel Doherty who composed the original score for the film which uses a huge amount of rap music. There’s a really interesting scene in Dublin at the minute and some of these musician are in the film and they’ve been working with Mark making tracks for the film. What these guys are coming up with and with Dan producing is amazing. He’s engineering a whole feel to the film. Mark wanted the music to reflect the realism and grittiness of the film and show what life is like for these cardboard gangsters in Dublin.”

And for Richard himself working with Mark O’Connor, “I’d always admired Mark’s work and it was great to get a chance to work with him. He has a special voice and is a real talent in the industry. He makes films that nobody else does.”


Cardboard Gangsters screens at the Town Hall Theatre on Saturday, 9th July at 22.00.

Director Mark O’Connor and cast will attend.

Buy tickets here

Take a look at our preview of all the Irish films ascreening at the 2016 Galway Film Fleadh

The 28th Galway Film Fleadh runs 5 – 10 July 2016








Teaser Trailer: Cardboard Gangsters



Mark O’Connor’s latest film Cardboard Gangsters stars John Connors as a small time drug dealer who, together with his group of cardboard gangsters attempts to gain control of the drug trade in Darndale, chasing the glorified lifestyle of money, power and sex.

To whet your appetite the filmmakers have released an exclusive clip from the film.



To mark the world premiere, there will be a pre-screening party in the Roisin Dubh which will have live music from acts who feature on the films soundtrack including Patti Smith Blues Band, Fifth Element, Jambo, Trom and God Creative and Crimes Against.

The party, which is open to the public and will take place 5pm – 8pm, is co-sponsored by the Craic Festival.

The film will screen on Saturday 9th July at 10pm at the Galway Film Fleadh and will be released in cinemas later this year by Wildcard Distribution.


Buy tickets for Cardboard Gangsters World Premiere, Saturday 9th July at 10pm in the Town Hall Theatre:

Buy tickets for the Roisin Dubh pre-screening party: