Forget everything you know about the music biopic. Writer-director Rich Peppiatt brings the story of Kneecap, a real-life Irish rap group, to the big screen in a way that The Dirt wishes it did. Starring Liam Óg Ó hAnnaidh, Naoise Ó Cairealláin, and JJ Ó Dochartaigh as themselves, the film is a ketamine-fueled trip through their post-Troubles origins and rise to fame (or infamy) as they stumble into their place in the Northern Irish civil rights movement to legalize the Irish language. 

After Liam is pinched for drugs, JJ, an Irish-language and music teacher, is sent down in place of his girlfriend Caitlin (Fionnula Flaherty) to translate for the police. Naturally, Liam is defiant, and when the detective (Josie Walker) wants him to read Liam’s notebook for information on Noaise’s presumed-dead activist father Arlo (Michael Fassbender), JJ finds powerful, brazen statements that he recognizes as rap lyrics. After Liam asks JJ what side he’s on, the oppressors or the oppressed, he incites a scuffle, allowing him to pocket the notebook. Later, JJ’s inspired by the lyrics to return to his old turntables in the garage, and convinces Liam and Naoise to form an Irish-language rap group and bring their voice to the people. As Arlo once told them, “Every word of Irish spoken is a bullet fired for Irish freedom.”

source: Sundance Film Festival

From the first frame, Kneecap is a chaotic rollercoaster of a film, with a pulse-pounding score by Michael “Mikey J” Asante that echoes not only the group’s beats but the best 90s and 2000s electro-acoustic score. But also, importantly, it’s grounded in its message, following the struggle of native Irish speakers to legalize the right to speak their own language as well as a family trying to get by without a father who may or may not be dead. Kneecap is fresh, vibrant, in-your-face, and it will destroy your Spotify Wrapped in the coming year (though try to wait until you’ve seen the film first). It’s already been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long to see it in theaters. As for the accuracy of the film, to quote Liam at the Q&A after the premiere: “it’s up for you to work out what’s true and what’s not.”

Follow our Sundance coverage HERE.

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