DUBLIN-BORN writer-director Lance Daly mines an impressively gritty, no-holds-barred revenge saga out of a brutal period in Ireland’s 19th-century history.

The title refers to the year 1847, regarded as the worst time of the Great Irish Famine. Steely-eyed Ranger Martin Feeney (Animal Kingdom’s James Frecheville), emerging like a character transposed from the Old West, returns to his Irish homeland after deserting the British Army due to seeing one too many horrors during the war in Afghanistan.

More horrors await him, however, when he discovers that his farmhouse childhood home has been destroyed, his mother has died from starvation and his brother hanged at the behest of British rule.

It’s a homeland he knows and loves, now in the grip of brutal hardship; millions dead from sickness or starvation and a million more emigrating in search of a better chance. All of which stands in stark contrast to the nation’s beautiful landscape.

From there it becomes a roaring rampage of revenge, to quote from Quentin Tarantino, as Feeney skulks around killing as many British officers as he can and refusing to speak the Queen’s English. The choice to have much of the dialogue in Irish Gaelic is a nice touch.

Feeney’s ultimate target is that of pitiless estate owner Lord Kilmichael (Jim Broadbent, playing brilliantly against type) who longs for a day when “a Celtic Irishman in Ireland will be as rare a sight as a Red Indian in Manhattan”.

In retaliation the British enlist military officer Hannah (a terrifically no-nonsense Hugo Weaving), who served with Feeney in Afghanistan; mild-mannered underling Hobson (Barry Keoghan); self-righteous officer Pope (Freddie Fox); and world-weary yet sly guide/translator Conneely (Stephen Rea) to predict Feeney’s next move and stop him.

It’s often a slow-burn, steeping its audience neck deep in murky and uncomfortable waters as it astutely conjures a sense of authentic time and place. It’s here where the script’s reliance on glib summations, like “maybe people would place more value on beauty if they could eat it”, rears its facetious head.

Nevertheless it’s hard to deny the raw power of this frank, haunting piece of cinema which burns ferociously bright out of gloomy shadows when it wants to. A full-on final showdown in particular could be used a template for how to properly stage a chaotic yet clearly choreographed set-piece.

Daly’s film is a lean, mean historical actioner which doesn’t hold back on brutal realities, mostly succeeding in mixing genres and grappling with weighty themes.

From its Western-influenced, man-on-a-mission heroics to a stylish lesson about a vital, vicious period in Irish history, it all smashes together to uncompromising yet wholly accessible effect.