Originally a short story, written by emerging Irish writer Colin Barrett, Calm With Horses is a simple tale told incredibly well. The Devers family controls the drug business on Ireland's West Coast and they employ an ex-boxer with a talent for violence to settle their scores. When a family feud escalates, the boxer is directed to do more than beat his victim. The fighter has two choices, become a vicious killer, or find a way to escape the Devers for good.
Ireland's west coast is not a typical setting for a gangster movie. However, the stunning countryside acts as a disconcerting backdrop to the extreme violence on screen.
Cosmo Jarvis plays hardman Douglas “Arm” Armstrong. The English actor spent months in Ireland before the shoot to master the local accent. He did such a good job that not a single member of the Irish crew realised he was English until filming ended. Irish actors Barry Keoghan and Niamh Algar form the principal cast with Cosmo, and the trio delivers the script brilliantly.
As the tale unfolds, “Arm” begins to realise he's being used more like the clan's attack dog and less an adopted member of the family. At one point, Barry Keoghan's character even whistles at him to call an end to a beating. Niamh Algar plays the boxer's ex-partner and together they have an autistic son. The money “Arm” earns as hired muscle pays for this son's medical treatment. Any attempt by the boxer to distance himself from the life of crime will have dire consequences for him and his family.
Calm With Horses feels like a very different gangster movie. Nothing here sounds or looks like anything you've seen before in the genre. Overall, a superb film with great performances from the whole cast – especially Cosmo Jarvis in the main role.