June Butler travels to exotic locations in Gerard Lough’s new Irish thriller, Spears.

Spears is a multi-faceted romp through a tale of revenge, the art of the con, and enough double-crosses to make even the most stalwart of swindlers want to jack in their metier and train as a librarian. Gerard Lough has written and directed a film that this reviewer feels will become a cult classic. Derived from the words of Emily Brontë*, the title refers to a double-edged weapon, the twinning of black and white, good and bad, alongside mirrors of behaviour each sentient human should see when confronted with their actions. It reminds us of reflective energy. A reversing force that can harm the perpetrator as much as the recipient.       

A number of (seeming) separate plots narrate different stories. Set in Florence, Berlin, London and Donegal, the characters roam to and from each city until the tale comes together in its final exciting moments. 

Kian (Nigel Brennan), a private investigator is dispatched to Italy and paid to track down an errant wife by two sinister individuals. 

Jeff (Bobby Calloway) and Rachael (Rebecca Rose Flynn) meet in Berlin and fall in love. Jeff is a misguided writer who is finding it difficult to be creative. However, as a side-line, Jeff specialises in striking up romances with lonely women online while effortlessly conning them out of money. The scam is roughly the same each time and Jeff has convinced himself that he is committing a bloodless crime that harms no one. Rachael attempts to steer Jeff towards honesty but Jeff has misgivings. Is Rachel who she pretends to be? 

In London, Cormac (Aidan O’Sullivan) meets Vadik (Thomas Sharkey), a charismatic businessman with the aim of buying a gun from him. 

Tied to all of the stories and loitering with menacing intent, is Hidell (Michael Parle) who excels as puppet-master supreme. At times unctuous and oily, Hidell appears to be the ubiquitous link that binds the narrative. Inside every plot and subplot, lies the ingratiating and sycophantic Hidell. There are some powerful actors among the cast of Spears. Of particular note are Michael Parle (Hidell), Aidan O’Sullivan (Cormac), Nigel Brennan (Kian), Bobby Calloway (Jeff), and Rebecca Rose Flynn (Rachael). 

The music in Spears is inspired. Absolutely inspired. Groups Exit Pursued by a Bear along with La Group Fantastique, Shaefri and Sleep Thieves, all songs match the drama with seamless perfection, blending to form tense and haunting melodies. The superb soundtrack for Spears is one of many aspects in which this film becomes so watchable. 

Director Gerard Lough sticks closely to the genre of Neo Noir/Thriller by allowing his actors to reflect, and ultimately self-actualise. The audience is encouraged to follow the character’s journey as they teeter between integrity and insatiability. Moral fibre versus dishonest subterfuge. There are a number of scenes that bear witness to heroic, personal struggles within character roles. Extreme close-ups capture facial expressions of possible remorse caught amid revenge and greed. Lough notes also, that the human condition is both a monstrous beauty yet equally defiled in its grotesque contortions. Humans are base and feral. But they can also soar to the heavens. 

Who decides what is right or wrong? This is where the conundrum lies and makes the central premise of Spears such a thorny question. Bad people can sometimes do good and good people often make poor decisions. Every act is relevant to the information received, the fallout and the aftereffects of said decision. Or the ensuing repercussions are not considered at all. The springboard of following through with a plan can also be impulsive and ill-advised. Life and its myriad of daily multiple choices, seems to nimbly engineer a vast area of schemata, plans that can be drastically altered when one single element is changed. If the character takes a different turn in the sequence of events, the strong implication is that the outcome will also be amended. It leads the viewer to note that getting what you really want does not always guarantee happiness or the feeling of true fulfilment.  

*Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends: they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies. 

Spears will be showing at selected cinemas in Ireland from 18th February 2022.


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