DEADLY CUTS: An Irish Comedy With An Underdog Spirit

Deadly Cuts is Rachel Carey‘s debut feature. For what is essentially an underdog story with familiar narrative conventions, a few surprises make this an oddball, albeit on-brand tale of perseverance. The movie follows a group of staunch hairdressers as they wrestle with power-hungry gangsters, rival salons, and perfidious politicians. It’s a tempting combination of hurdles that don’t always mesh together, but there are moments where the characters, particularly the actors, make the scenes work by virtue of their chemistry, body language, and line delivery. 

Deadly Cuts opens with a montage of a Dublin neighborhood known as Piglinstown. In this working-class community, gang violence is on the rise and small businesses are dealing with gentrification. One of these businesses is Deadly Cuts, a cozy salon run by Michelle (Angeline Ball) and her three employees, Stacey (Ericka Roe), Gemma (Lauren Larkin), and Chantelle (Shauna Higgins). Not only are they being threatened by the local gangster (Ian Lloyd Anderson) for their refusal to pay protection money, the town’s mayor (Aidan McArdle) gave them four weeks’ notice to vacate the salon for developers. 

DEADLY CUTS: An Irish Comedy With An Underdog Spirit
source: Myriad Pictures/Level 33 Entertainment

One morning, Stacey wakes up with a renewed sense of confidence. She dreams of participating in the popular hairstyling contest known as “Ahh Hair.” She tries to convince her fellow hairstylists to join her in the competition. Michelle is hesitant at first, but she ultimately agrees, especially after being faced with the imminent closure of her salon. Still, by competing, Michelle will have to face her old adversary Pippa (Victoria Smurfit). Winning the competition will improve the salon’s reputation and cash flow, perhaps even make it so the mayor won’t be able to shut down their business because of their success. But for Stacey, the competition is more personal. It isn’t that saving the salon isn’t one of her motivations to compete, but her biggest motivation is to be seen and appreciated by her mother, who left her many years ago. 

A Well-Acted & Clever Black Comedy

Deadly Cuts is an amusing Irish comedy with darker genre elements thrown in to complicate the underdog formula. Granted, the fast, quirky comedy, which is composed of one-liners, only goes so far before fatigue sets in. Even so, the charismatic cast maintains most of the verve as the movie dwindles in quality as a result of an unfocused and undercooked script. It takes careful planning when combining genres, tones, and themes into a cinematic vision, and unfortunately, Carey struggles to utilize them all successfully. 

The film begins as a comedic thriller about pursuing dreams and confronting gentrification in a deteriorating working-class neighborhood. However, for Stacey and her fellow co-workers, Piglinstown has always been and always will be their home. Instantly, their friendship dynamic is what’s memorable. Different in age and disposition, the leads have infectious chemistry. Ericka Roe brings the right amount of naivete and confidence to the role of a young hairstylist who’s determined to make a name for herself. Shauna Higgins is purposefully and enjoyably awkward as Chantelle, serving as comic relief while still having a developed personality. Lauren Larkin is perfectly convincing as Gemma. Meanwhile, Angeline Ball delivers the most compelling performance as the tenacious salon owner, Michelle. Like Stacey, Michelle is taking a risk by competing in the hairstyling competition. Haunted by her past and dreading the scenario where she runs into her former adversary, Michelle must take the risk. After all, this is a film about taking risks and overcoming adversity. Just another tender tale of the human spirit, right? Well, for the most part, but with a bit of murder thrown in. 

DEADLY CUTS: An Irish Comedy With An Underdog Spirit
source: Myriad Pictures/Level 33 Entertainment

Before the competition even gets underway, the hairstylists fight off an assailant and kill them in self-defense. In a moment of haste, they cover up the crime and dispose of the body. As bleak as this sounds, there is hardly any gore; in fact, the violent encounter is imbued with dark humor. In the aftermath of so-and-so’s death, the town of Piglinstown undergoes an uplifting change of pace. This whole aspect of the film makes for a great satirical glimpse into gentrification and the failures of those with authority.

In more ways than one, Deadly Cuts is a parody of social class, which becomes more apparent once the ragtag group of small-time hairstylists must go up against elite hairstylists who play dirty. That being said, this aspect of the film not only suffers from predictability but a lack of build-up and comedic or dramatic tension. Nevertheless, the characters have a natural chemistry that’s reminiscent of their small-town upbringing. They don’t look like the other hairstylists; they don’t try to conceal the fact that they are the underdogs. Even if their emotionally charged scenes ring hollow, with a cast this endearing, it is next to impossible not to root for the characters. I just wish Carey had a firmer grasp on tone and direction, especially after the pivotal salon incident and during the hairstyling competition. 

Conclusion: Deadly Cuts

Inheriting a fair amount of pawky wit and effective parody, there is a lot to like about Rachel Carey’s feature debut. While the Irish comedy’s focus and ingenuity lessen as the underdog formula takes priority, the talented cast and their undeniable chemistry vitalize the absurdity of this genre mash-up. 

Have you seen Deadly Cuts? If not, are you interested in seeing it? Let us know in the comments!

Deadly Cuts was released in the United States on VOD on March 17, 2022, by Level 33 Entertainment. 


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