Route Irish (15)

Starring: Mark Womack, Andrea Lowe, John Bishop
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The Independent Culture

No one would doubt Ken Loach's status as British cinema's chief scourge of hypocrisy and injustice, but his latest, a thriller about dirty tricks in Iraq, will not rank among his better work.

It stars Mark Womack as a private contractor, Fergus, returning to his Liverpool hometown for the funeral of his best friend Frankie (John Bishop), killed on the hellish road linking Baghdad airport and the Green Zone known as "Route Irish". Fergus's discovery of an Iraqi citizen's mobile phone suggests that the official verdict is a cover-up, which Paul Laverty's screenplay works through in an increasingly clunky and didactic fashion. (The secret mobile plot was much better used in the Tommy Lee Jones drama In the Valley of Elah). Womack, a decent actor, is misdirected here, blowing his top too early and reducing his intensity to a single note, while his retributive use of waterboarding on an enemy is Laverty's appalling lapse of judgment. The portrayal of private security firms running amok in the Middle East is depressing, but I don't see this film doing much to outwit the forces of darkness.

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