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Richard the great

WHAT RICHARD DID Drama. Starring Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Gavin Drea, Fionn Walton, Lars Mikkelsen, Lorraine Pilkington. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Cert 15A

IN his first two films, Dublin director Lenny Abrahamson displayed a deft knack for dealing with specific areas of Irish society. Adam & Paul was a bleak, but blackly humorous look at life among inner-city Dublin's junkie underclass and he upped his game with Garage. Abrahamson has stretched himself even further with What Richard Did.

Like Garage, the central character's story pivots around one critical incident, but the movie's milieu couldn't be more different.

Set among the affluent South Co Dublin rugby school set, What Richard Did is a look into a world rarely touched by film-makers and more commonly used as a target for satire in Paul Howard's Ross O'Carroll-Kelly books.

Loosely based on Kevin Power's novel Bad Day in Blackrock, the film eases us into a world of privileged youngsters without ever trying to skew the viewer's sympathies either way.

In most high school/college movies we're usually presented with an outsider figure to root for but that's not the case here, as Richard Karlsen (Jack Reynor) is captain of the Raglan Hall rugby team, academically bright, good-looking and a decent bloke.

He becomes smitten with the lovely Lara (Roisin Murphy) during a party at his parents' beach house and they get together as she drifts away from her boyfriend Conor (Sam Keeley), another Raglan Hall student, but from the country and clearly not one of the in-crowd. Things come to a head at another party -- and Richard and his friends come to terms with the consequences of their actions in the film's latter half.

It's here where Abrahamson's skills as a film-maker kick in. His ability to change the tone is marvellous, as is his unfussy way of drawing the viewer in to scenes with perfectly composed shots -- but even they're surpassed by his ability to find the right actors for crucial roles.

Newcomer Jack Reynor is a revelation as Richard, cocky and full of the joys of life in the first half and a self-doubting, conflicted wreck after the 'incident', his performance standing up strongly even against the experienced Lars Mikkelsen (familiar from The Killing) as his father.

In lesser hands, What Richard Did could have been a judgmental mess. Instead, it's a measured human drama set in a Dublin rarely seen on screen. It's easily the best and most important Irish film since, well, Garage and one can only wonder what the Blackrock College film society will make of it. HHHHI

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Drama/Comedy. Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Dylan McDermott, Paul Rudd. Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Cert 15A

Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own novel puts us back on more familiar high school territory with the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a studious outsider with a troubled past who's offered a lifeline when he befriends older students Sam (Emma Watson) and her gay stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller).

Falling in with the cool kids does, however, bring its own problems, not least when Charlie falls for the clearly out-of-his-league Sam, but the early Nineties setting is well rendered and The Perks of Being a Wallflower has more darkness than is usual for such coming-of-age stories. HHHII

TAKEN 2 Action. Starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Sherbedgia. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Cert 12A

THE original Taken saw Liam Neeson as former CIA operative Bryan Mills going gangbusters in Paris on Albanian white slavers who'd kidnapped his daughter. Four years and $250m later and we're down to a 12A cert with the father of several butchered Balkan baddies going after Liam, his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) in Istanbul. Bar one decent car chase and a totally ludicrous scenario, involving hand grenades being lobbed willy-nilly around one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, this is poor fare. HHIII

SINISTER Horror. Starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance and James Tansone. Directed by Scott Derrickson. Cert 12A

The reliable Ethan Hawke is on fine form as a writer of true-crime books who moves his wife and family into a house where a multiple suicide took place several years previously. Naturally, he didn't tell the missus.

The director keeps things nice and spooky, even adding a touch of humour in the right places, making Sinister easily the best out-and-out horror movie of the year. HHHII