Carmen Bryce takes a look at Shaun Blaney’s Trespasses, which screens on Tuesday, 28th January at the Film Devour Short Film Festival in the Black Box in Belfast.

For a short under 20 minutes long, Trespasses, an edgy thriller from homegrown talent Shaun Blaney, is taut with drama.

Although shot and set north of the border in Belfast, refreshingly the film doesn’t focus on the country’s violent past but rather expands to more universal themes albeit no less significant – ­ the devaluing of human life in desperate times for one, and the inescapable consequences of our actions.

The film opens with a heist. Small-time criminals Rab (Gerard Jordan) and Micky (Ciaran Nolan) are making their getaway with two gunmen hot on their heels after stealing from Marty Rooney, a man, we later discover, they really shouldn’t have messed with. They escape and after dividing the loot, a measly £12,000 each, go their separate ways.

Rab checks himself into a hotel while things cool down. He stares back at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, a low-life thief so desperate he’d risk his own life for little more than a bagful of cash. The phone rings and a voice orders Rab to meet him in the hotel lobby. He reluctantly obeys and is greeted by a man who resembles a very shady Garth Brooks (Vincent Higgins) who informs Rab he missed the end of his line dancing to deal with this nasty situation.

Despite his comical attire, the ‘Cowboy’, we soon realise, is a man to be taken very seriously and one about to teach Rab a painful life lesson. Rab is about to discover that there are consequences to his actions and that life, especially in the dog eat dog criminal underworld, is cheap.

The sharp script (also written by Blaney) and the convincing performances in Trespasses are effective vehicles to allow such a dramatically intense plot develop and unfold within such a short piece. It has the feel of a feature film, the characters intrigue and the story has a big message at its heart.

Higgins is chillingly unpredictable as the Cowboy, at times charming and controlled, however, flipping in a heartbeat to reveal his truer, nastier colours. He is a man without scruples and there is nothing scarier than a character likely to do or say anything, like a Joe Pesci in a cowboy hat.

Jordan is persuasive as a man on the edge, much smarter than his reckless actions but driven there by a desperation all too real to many of us.

The story is skilfully paced, keeping us on our toes like a good crime thriller should and bringing us to a reflective ending which contrasts dramatically with the violent actions that come before.

Trespasses is being screened on 28th Jan at the Film Devour Short Film Festival in in the Black Box in Belfast.


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