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by Jay Seaver

"New Year's Eve costumes hide what's going on."
3 stars

"Jump" spends a fair amount of time presenting itself a certain type of movie - sarcastic, amoral, built on a fractured timeline that aims to make the audience feel clever for putting its multiple points of view together. It does that reasonably well, in fact, but it may not actually be best served by playing it cool in that way, as it's at its best and most interesting when it stops fooling around and says what the characters are feeling.

It's New Year's Eve in Derry, Northern Ireland, and Greta (Nichola Burley) is getting ready to jump off a bridge, worried that she's too much her cruel father's daughter. Greta's best friend Marie (Charlene McKenna) is worried about the way she's been acting lately, but she and her other friend Dara (Valerie Kane) have their own misadventures on tap. Fortunately, Greta is interrupted by Pearse Kelly (Martin McCann), who has been looking for his missing brother and been beaten up for the trouble. It seems Sean Kelly ran afoul of local gangster Frank Feeney (Lalor Roddy), whose vault has just been robbed. He dispatches weary enforcer Ross (Ciaran McMenamin) to get the money back, along with a couple of henchman (Richard Dormer & Packy Lee) who may be more hindrance than help.

Are all these stories eventually going to intersect by the time the movie is over? Most certainly, although writer/director Kieron J. Walsh doesn't always make the most of it - at least if you define making the most of it as having disparate pieces suddenly snap together in a way that the audience doesn't see coming but which makes perfect sense. Walsh and co-writer Steve Brookes do build a little community where everything is connected, at least, with only one or two coincidences more than would be ideal, but it often seems like they want the connection but instead have occasionally split a scene in half in such a way that it's incomplete the first time the audience sees it and redundant the second.

The most obvious time that happens also involves someone dying in ugly fashion, only to have the movie carry on as if it has just eliminated a superfluous character. That's kind of a big misstep, because where this movie shines is in the way that, contrary to the way this sort of caper often plays out, doing bad things takes a serious toll on the characters. There's not much winking violence to be found, to the point where audience members might be shocked to find just how fatal injuries can be in the real world. In a way, this all feeds into the situation that Greta finds herself in at the start of the movie, paradoxically so horrified that she might have her father's lack of empathy that she considers herself too dangerous to live.

That's some nice work on Nichola Burley's part, in fact; it calls for her to show Greta depressed and full of self-doubt but also assertive, quite able to take charge of a situation. Burley doesn't miss, exerting a personal gravity on everyone else but still giving hints of being lively at her best moments. Those frequently come with McCann, who gives Pearse an unsinkable quuality - he doesn't smile like a fool while accumulating misfortune, but does counter Greta's pessimism nicely. There's good work from the rest, too - Charlene McKenna is droll and not so tangled-up as Greta's friend Marie, but she projects a certain simple decency. Lalor Roddy, on the other hand, is doing the blunt local villain well in the usual fashion, while it's a shame that Ciaran McMenamin only briefly gets chances to show the torment that complements his exasperation.

The cast plays well enough off each other that the movie frequently overcomes some of its weaker bits of execution; the way Greta and all the characters around her seem to have just the right feeling of either comfortable history or love-at-first-sight sparks to make it feel real and letting the audience feel the sort of affection that lets them root for things to work out even as there are hints that things will not end well. Walsh doesn't go for the flashy, in-your-face style that many filmmakers adopt for this sort of movie, but it's not drab; part of this is how New Year's in Ireland seems to be like Halloween in the United States with the costumes people are wearing, but part is just making sure that the action doesn't sink into the murky darkness as indie movies may be wont to do.

Walsh and the cast play off each other well enough to make me wonder if the troubles I had with parts may be more my issue than the film's - maybe I'm putting more specific expectations onto it for being intersecting storylines on New Year's Eve than I should. I think it does stumble in telling its story, but the folks involved are at least talented enough to make the people getting into these situations interesting.

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originally posted: 01/08/14 08:39:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

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4/29/14 Jackie straight up Excellent fun 5 stars
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