Nothing Personal

on April 25, 1997 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   In Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, a truce was called between the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Defense Force. As "Nothing Personal" makes abundantly clear, peace doesn't mean old hatreds are forgotten; as exemplified by a traitorous Protestant powerbroker ("Two Deaths's" Michael Gambon), it can even be unclear who the opposing sides are.
   At first, it's hard to tell "Nothing Personal's" characters apart, because director Thaddeus O'Sullivan simply picks up everyone's lives in flux, revolving around family, socializing and politicking. Of course, that's the point: The Protestants and Catholics aren't that different from one another but, like the artificial boundaries that divide their Belfast neighborhoods, the crevice between the creeds seems insurmountable. When Liam (John Lynch), a Catholic single father, discovers his young son has entered the "dangerous" Protestant sector, he sets off after him, precipitating a confrontation with his enemies—most notably with Kenny, a young Protestant hitman ("Backbeat's" Ian Hart, who's chilling).
   Loosely plotted but very visceral, "Nothing Personal" gets at the constant tension, fear and potential for violent outbreak that was and is the Northern Irish reality. But it also allows for the presence of decency. "Nothing Personal" is also concerned with the sins of the fathers becoming the sins of the sons; the similarly themed "In the Name of the Father" never quite balanced the personal and political, but "Nothing Personal" succeeds well in binding the two elements.    Starring John Lynch, Ian Hart and Michael Gambon. Directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan. Written by Daniel Mornin. Produced by Jonathan Cavendish and Tracey Seaward. A Trimark release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 85 min. Screened at the Toronto fest.
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