Clane, Ireland- In 1998, 22 year-old Jimmy Bennett from Trim, County Meath Ireland had written, directed and acted in Ireland’s first and only martial arts film. This low-budget monstrosity was Jimmy’s ticket out of Ireland and into Hollywood. The film takes on a Hamlet feel of vengeance as Jimmy Bennett sets out to avenge his father with his martial arts skills. With a budget of £8,9000 Irish Pounds or €10,000, the cast of the film were not being paid. According to the cameraman and editor Shay Casserley, ‘they look at Fatal Deviation as a professional project’ and ‘that’s the way it is going to turn out’. Of course the project wasn’t paying anyone unless it became successful afterwards. Shay even hints at the fact if the film is received positively, he and Jimmy may have a future in film industry. Besides Shay, who videos weddings and commercials, nobody else seems to have any qualifications associated with making a movie.
What struck me odd most about this film is Jimmy. From a Nationwide interview in 1998, it is obvious he wants to be the Irish Jean-Claude Van Damme. I am not making this up, but his bedroom wall is a shrine to Van Damme. Don’t get me wrong, I think Irish people are too self-degrading and we should have more confidence in ourselves. Even if that means acting like Conor McGregor, though McGregor is being himself, not anyone else. One thing can be said about Jimmy, he really did believe this movie was his shot to stardom. His obsession with fame could be chalked up to him playing up to the camera but considering the money and time he spent on making Fatal Deviation, I think he was genuine. I grew up in Ireland and I never heard of Fatal Deviation until 2009 and Obscura Lupa, formally from the dictatorship known as Channel Awesome, made what I would consider, the best video review on the film.
The film revolves around Jimmy Bennett as Jimmy Bennett. How terribly original. As a child he witnesses the murder of his father at the hands of a local Drug Baron, this guy next to you. The Drug Baron is played by a solicitor from Trim and comes across as more of a gentle grandfather than he does the leader of a drug cartel. Jimmy is trying to get his life back together after finally leaving a reform school, at the age of 22. He must have been a really bad student. Knowing what kind of reform schools we had in Ireland for the young, i’m surprised he didn’t come out more scarred than when he went in. I also find it really odd that a reform school would teach martial arts. Then again, reform schools and Borstals were great places to learn the skills for a life of crime and rarely rehabilitated anyone. It is similar to the current American penal system (Penis System, thanks Oz). After beating two local thugs to a pulp, because a few words and a call to the local police would not have been Van Damme enough for this film. No, a serious beat down needed to happen. This sets in motion for the most idiotic scene I have ever seen in a film. The Drug Baron, decides Jimmy could be of some use to him. His logic is “wouldn’t it be ironic to have the son of the man I killed working for us”. That isn’t logic, that is lazy screen writing. Hell, he may as well narrate the film with that kind of carry on.
The rest of the movie comes off almost as a David Lynch experience of weird surrealism. It is like watching what Twin Peaks would look like if it was set in the Irish countryside. If you added ominous music at the right time and added coffee to the film, heck, it might be a great surrealist flick. Instead, the movie takes itself too seriously and looks like someone made a movie on their phone and edited it with windows movie maker. The best scene to sum this film up is this one. Jimmy’s ‘hot babe’ has been kidnapped and he has to lose the martial arts tournament so the Drug Baron doesn’t lose face. Next to him is a Karate monk and he hands him a note that says “Loose or else”. I was speechless when I saw this and I had flashes of the editor saying ‘this is a professional project’. The film climaxes with Jimmy beating his last opponent in the tournament with some sweet form called ‘fatal deviation’ hence the film’s name. He rushes back to save his ‘hot babe’ and while he is driving down a country lane to make his rescue attempt he crashes the car. The crash was not planned and was an accident and unfortunately nobody was hurt. I say that because it would have given the film more profile. After this, we are treated to one of the most out of place scenes in the film and that is saying a lot considering what type of film this has been so far. A naked man gets into a heated bath outside nude while drinking a beer, for reasons I guess.
It has been speculated on many forums why this scene was put in the film. Some suggest Jimmy thought the film was getting too serious and needed a comical scene, others believe the scene represents the cleansing of crime from the Trim area. What I discovered was that the man in the bathtub scene was one of the financiers of the film and probably wanted to be included in the movie somehow. Why not with a cock and balls hanging low. After storming through their compound and killing a couple of henchmen, he kills the Drug Barons son and the scene cuts to Jimmy and his ‘hot babe’ having a picnic. My mind hurts even thinking why this happened. Surely the police would have gotten involved or Jimmy would be on the run with his ‘hot babe’. No, he has a picnic on the roadside again and the Drug Baron finds him and tries to execute him with a shotgun. Instead, with the power of Karate, Jimmy subdues him and executes him. Now, I am no lawyer, but I cannot see Jimmy not getting life imprisonment for manslaughter charges. In Ireland you can be prosecuted for shooting a home invader, imagine what they would do to you for shooting a Drug Baron, his son and a load of his henchmen and your sole logic was “Hamlet like revenge”.
I will give the film this much at least, Jimmy Bennett is as fit as Van Damme and there are a few scenes that really show off his athleticism. Make no mistake, Jimmy Bennett is trained in Martial Arts and has the physique to show for it. It is just a shame the film was just so god-awful that it didn’t matter. Most of the fight scenes were choreographed as well as you would expect from a low-budget film from the Irish country-side.
This movie is a mess and I put it down with The Room and Birdemic. There are a lot of Irish low-budget films that have used their meager budgets effectively and produced some fantastic cinema. 2009’s ‘Once’ was made on a budget of €112,000 and was received with universal acclaim and proved that low-budget can be good too. Once even won the ‘Academy Award for Best Original Song’ and to this day, there is still a musical production of Once running. By the time Fatal Deviation was a finished product, nobody wanted to showcase it in their film festivals and was fated to be a bargain bin VHS that I managed to find a copy of. Thanks to the age of the Internet, Fatal Deviation didn’t fall into complete obscurity and it is celebrated for being so bad, it is good. It is now available on YouTube and there are a lot of reviews made of the film at this point. The movie has been shown in Trim many times and a lot of locals claim Jimmy has since left and is living in America, where he hopes to become a star.
Funnily enough, Jimmy is working in America and has been working mostly as an uncredited stunt performer for a few films. On his IMDb page, he was an uncredited actor in The Lone Ranger, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and a lot of other films and TV series I have never heard of. Besides this and attending a few acting schools in California, there is not a lot of other information about Bennett. He stuck to his dream of becoming a film star and maybe one day he will do so, but until then, his most famous work is still Fatal Deviation.