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REVIEW | Fatal Deviation (1998)

20 Oct 2017

Father Dougal McGuire does his best Jean-Claude Van Damme impression as he faces off against Boyzone and the Craggy Island drug lords who killed Ted. (There's more truth to that sentence than there should be.) 


Country: Ireland (seriously) | Runtime: 90m | Directors: Shay Casserley, Simon Linscheid

Starring: James Bennett, Mikey Graham, Nicole O'Sullivan, Michael Regan, Johnny Murray



What happens: Martial arts enthusiast Jimmy Bennett (Bennett) returns home in search of the man who killed his father. He immediately thwarts various petty schemes of local crime boss Drug Baron (Regan), and begins a romantic relationship with Nicola (O'Sullivan), girlfriend of Baron's son Mikey (Graham). Bennett enters a martial arts tournament and must face off against Seagul (Colin Hamilton), a Baron clan stooge. Eventually he remembers he's meant to be avenging his father's death and kills everyone.


 There are altogether too many pictures of Jean-Claude Van Damme on that wall



Growing up in Trim, County Meath, a small rural town close to the Irish coast, young James Bennett was obsessed with the films of Bruce Lee. Dismayed at his son's tendency toward street fighting and random acts of violence, Bennett's father enrolled him in karate classes, where he discovered the cinema of Jean-Claude Van Damme and decided to become an action hero. Looking uncannily like a potato, Bennett's transition to superstardom did not come easily, so he wrote himself a star vehicle intended to be used as a Hollywood calling card. Developed with childhood friend Shay Casserley, Fatal Deviation became Ireland's first feature-length martial arts movie. Described by Luke McKinney at as the worst film ever made (that was before the release of Quadrant 9EV9), Fatal Deviation is essentially a homage to Van Damme. Bennett mimics his fighting style, does the splits for no reason and even reproduces familiar expressions and grunts during the near shot-for-shot recreations of the Belgian's best-known fight scenes. The obsession starts to border on the eerie when you notice at least half a dozen framed Van Damme portraits adorning the walls of Bennett's bedroom. He's clearly hoping the audience will think of Bloodsport, but it's Father Ted you won't be able to get out of your mind. The poor guy is cursed with identical intonation to Father Dougal, and there's more than a hint of Jack to the villain.


 Kung fu monk. Bagpipes



The clichés flow thick and fast. Having returned home, Bennett is trained in super-kung fu by a mysterious monk (who uses exactly the same techniques as Kickboxer's wise old sage, Xian Chow), only for girlfriend Nicola to be kidnapped on the eve of the final showdown in an attempt to force him to throw the big fight. The blueprint is familiar, but it’s the execution that makes this thing such a wonder. Shot on video without the aid of tripods, lights or proper microphones, and apparently edited by a universal randomiser, it features a cast of local amateurs, a nonsensical script and a bewilderingly inappropriate score. Objectively it couldn't be any worse. Subjectively it's a rare flower, the beauty of which must be protected, but also shared as widely as possible. Every aspect is extraordinary. From its shamelessly derivative Van Dammeness, to the title – which is never explained (what is the deviation and why is it fatal?). It's a pure hit of egosploitation, the result of a talentless thug roundhouse kicking the very concept of self-awareness into submission. We spend no more than two minutes on the plot, which alleges to be about Bennett finding the man who killed his father. Instead we just follow him about as he repeatedly meets mild provocation with devastating violence, only cutting away occasionally to Boyzone's Mikey Graham being villainous (it really is him, and he was at the height of his stardom at the time).


 If you've just used the 'ye olde scroll' template you probably shouldn't give it a  closeup



Fatal Deviation is seventy minutes of pure joy (more if you count a bizarre end sequence of repeated and alternate scenes presumably intended to up the runtime). There's a lot of watching nothing much happen, but even the nothing is infused with the sort of ineptitude that never gets boring. The whole movie is on YouTube and should be watched at your earliest convenience. If you figure out who the naked guy in the caravan is, let me know.



EGOWATCH: Most of the movie is spent watching Bennett train, beat people up and court a woman so far out of his league that she knows she doesn't have to bother acting. Just showing up was enough for this production. Needless to say he's the best fighter there can be. The egotism exists within that fairly narrow frame, but is no less impressive for it.








WHAT?: 10



So nearly a full house. But while there's certainly no shortage of fistfights and gunplay there could be a little more overall excess. Needless to say the appeal is bad movie all the way. 



Video: Fatal Deviation in Two Minutes




Video: Fatal Deviation: Motorcycle Gunfight





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