It’s been a strange time for streaming/straight-into-the-home films in recent weeks with the quality across the board starting to be questioned by audiences and, of course, critics. Recently, Dexter Fletcher, who directed the bafflingly abysmal Chris Evans/Ana de Armas starrer Ghosted talked of “metrics” as the leading light for many behind the scenes when it comes to films made for streaming and that such efforts take different skills than for those theatrical releases. With the reaction received by that film, as well as others this very weekend – Jennifer Lopez’s The Mother is just one of the other recent disappointments – it begs an inevitable question: has the bubble for home films burst? Dead Shot, the latest Sky Cinema original in the UK, thankfully bucks the trend a little but it certainly does make you anxious for what the future holds, especially in the wake of the current writers’ strike and the rise of potential AI-written films. Skynet rises…
Settling the scene in the mid-70s, Tom and Charles Guard’s brutal, unrelenting thriller starts with a real shock and doesn’t let up. In the quiet, misty surroundings of rural Ireland, a retired paramilitary Michael O’Hara (Colin Morgan) races home to find his wife Carol (Máiréad Tyers) in the early stages of labour. Swiftly getting into their car and heading for the hospital, they are set on by an undercover SAS cluster. Michael flees at Carol’s request but, swiftly changing his mind, he turns back to see the SAS shooting her without warning before unleashing fire on them and getting wounded himself. He eventually escapes the onslaught and heads to London to team up with fellow IRA operatives to track down the man responsible – SAS agent Tempest (Aml Ameen) – and have his revenge.
The Troubles were a perilous time across both sides. While we have seen the history told much better over recent years – Yann Demange’s ruthless ‘71 is perhaps the best recent attempt to tell some of the stories – so if you’re here for that side of it, you might feel short-changed and the Guards’ story focus is on the two men at the centre of it. We do get some context to it all – with Mark Strong’s mysterious government agent and Felicity Jones as a photographer-come-informant doing most of the heavy lifting where this is concerned – but this is more about the revenge rooted in it that the surrounding tensions and, for better or worse, it makes for an enthralling if slight thriller. There’s a real edge to this one and it places you directly into the past with some glorious location work (Glasgow subbing for London for the most part) and its gritty, almost documentary re-creation of the 70s realism works to the film’s advantage, adding to the unfolding drama and tensions surrounding it.
Starting as it means to go on, the film has some ferocious, bruising set pieces with one taking place at Paddington Station the most effective, creating a sense of real dread and peril for those around it which only adds to the tension brewing between the opposing factions. Indeed, to that end, both Morgan and Ameen are excellent in the lead roles, with both bringing pathos and thoughtfulness to their characters, even if Morgan does end up looking like a budget Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange throughout. Impressive without being showy, Dead Shot is a solid thriller that does just enough to keep the attention throughout despite its slightly lacklustre story.
Action, Thriler | 2023 | Sky Cinema | Showing from May 12th | Dir: Thomas Guard and Charles Guard | Aml Ameen, Colin Morgan, Tom Vaugh-Lawlor, Mark Strong, Felicity Jones