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Review: Irish revenge thriller ‘Black 47’ ups the intensity with a western-style turn

Review: Irish revenge thriller ‘Black 47’ ups the intensity with a western-style turn
James Frecheville in the movie "Black 47." (IFC Films)

Set against the grim backdrop of Ireland’s Great Famine, Lance Daly’s “Black 47” is a visually arresting, Irish western-style revenge tale that maintains a firm directorial grip on the foreboding landscape.

Having abandoned his post fighting for the British army in Afghanistan, Feeney (Australian James Frecheville), a tough-as-nails Irish Ranger, returns home during the harsh winter of 1847 only to discover his mother dead from starvation and his brother hanged by English authorities.

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Vowing vengeance, he systematically embarks on a campaign of terror, while Hannah (Hugo Weaving), a veteran British military man skilled in tracking deserters, is dispatched to put an end to Feeney’s mounting destruction.

With a stylistic approach reminiscent of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” the mournful film, which includes equally sturdy performances from old reliables Stephen Rea and Jim Broadbent, admittedly puts a hefty premium on tone at the expense of more intricate plotting and character development.

But that intense atmosphere, stirringly captured by cinematographer Declan Quinn, manages to speak considerable volumes of its own as Daly incorporates a sensory palette that creates a palpable feeling of despair with each splatter of rain, rustle of wind and crackle of fire.

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‘Black 47’

In English and Irish with English subtitles

Rated: R, for violence, some disturbing images and language

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood

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