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Resurrection Man (1998, Stuart Townsend, Brenda Fricker)

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Marc Evans’ film, which at the time of its release was criticised for its portrayal of violence, focuses on Victor Kelly (Stuart Townsend), the newest recruit to a Belfast gang called the Resurrection Men. The Troubles have just begun in Northern Ireland, and Kelly has only the love of his mother Dorcas (Brenda Fricker) to distract him from the everyday violence. The arrival of Sammy McClure (Sean McGinley) changes that.

Impressed by Victor’s immoral attitude and carving knife prowess, McClure plays patron to him and his gang, bringing a little discipline to their actions, dispatching them throughout the city on random missions of murder. As the body count increases, so does the interest of local journalist Ryan (James Nesbitt), a tenacious investigator who hides his own dark secret while trying to make the gang’s activities front page news…

This veiled biopic of Loyalist murderer Lenny Murphy is as sanguine and unflinching as its subject, a man who took pride in his work with a gang known as the Shankill Butchers, whose 11 members were sentenced to a total of 2,000 years imprisonment in 1979. The gang specialised in the abduction of Catholics, gaining their nickname from the subsequent torture and mutilation of victims.

Victor is a world apart from the knockabout rogues Townsend had portrayed in Shooting Fish and Trojan Eddie , but the Dubliner makes the role his own (‘It was just such rewarding work’ he claimed later) and injects some small amount of humanity into Kelly’s daily routine, while his relationship with Ryan is the film’s most convincing angle.

production details
UK | 102 minutes | 1998

Director: Marc Evans
Script: Eoin McNamee,

cast
Stuart Townsend as Victor Kelly
John Hannah as Darkie Larche
James Nesbitt as Ryan
Brenda Fricker as Dorcas Kelly
Derek Thompson as Herbie Ferguson
George Shane as James Kelly