The title Deadly Cuts suggests a darkly comedic horror film about a team of vigilante barbers. You wouldn’t be too far off with that description. That said, while there are a few somewhat grisly elements peppered throughout, at its heart, writer/director Rachel Carey’s debut feature is a pretty straightforward underdog story, albeit one that’s fueled by the chemistry between its cheeky leads and numerous moments of humor both gentle and acerbic. Only an Irish comedy would condone murder, after all.
Set in Piglinstown, a working-class Dublin borough, the movie revolves around the titular salon and its quirky dwellers. One day, Stacey (Ericka Roe) decides to unite her fellow hairdressers – a group of ladies, led by stalwart Michelle (Angeline Ball) – to participate in the grandiose styling contest aptly named “Ahh Hair.” Michelle is reluctant at first but eventually gives in.
Obstacles arise. Hooligans lurk outside Deadly Cuts, eventually causing a ruckus. Mayor Flynn (Aidan McArdle) threatens to shut down all local businesses in four weeks before redeveloping the entire town. And then there’s Michelle’s past surfacing, along with her old foe Pippa (Victoria Smurfit). After a lad is brutally killed in self-defense, the ladies turn into local vigilantes.
“After a lad is brutally killed in self-defense, the ladies turn into local vigilantes.”
But Deadly Cuts doesn’t have time to side-track and have the team hunt down provincial troublemakers. With the local gang dealt with, the ladies now must win the “Ahh Hair” competition, their logic being that the mayor wouldn’t dare renovate a town with an award-winning barbershop. They’re going up against “elite hair technicians,” who literally can’t afford to lose. No pressure.
If you can get over accents so heavy that subtitles for non-Irish folks are a must, as well as the predictability of it all, there’s a good time to be had. Deadly Cuts is charming and genuinely funny, with sparkling chemistry between the leads. Carey never makes it a point that her heroes are women of all ages, nor does she ever preach (she’s too busy following narrative tropes – just kiddin’, but not really).
A knack for creating side-splitting set-pieces is nothing to sneer at, and the writer-director showcases a real aptitude when it comes to hilarity: from the big moments, such as when Piglinstown’s citizens emerge to a miraculously crimeless neighborhood, to the smaller ones, like the piece of tinfoil in Stacey’s hair during an otherwise-savage encounter. “Over my dead fuc*ing hairpiece,” Pippa snarls at one point. If this quip made you smile, you will love the movie.
The first half of Deadly Cuts is oddly more inspired than the second. When it comes to the actual competition, the filmmaker amps up the camp, therein losing some of the built-up relatability. You’ll see every beat coming, down to a character’s last-minute jitters, alleviated by another character’s inspirational speech. However, this will hardly impede your enjoyment. Carey’s approach to filmmaking resembles that of a stylist working on a client who’s had the same haircut for years: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Deadly Cuts screened at the 2021 Seattle International Film Festival.
"…charming and genuinely funny..."