An unexpected delight, Cowboys & Angels is an exhilarating romp set in Limerick, Ireland. Michael Legge stars as Shane, a civil servant trapped in a soulless job, who has secret dreams of being an artist. His dreary existence is turned topsy-turvy when he moves in with Vincent (Allen Leech), a gay fashion student. Vincent makes him over, "Queer Eye"-style, and soon he's a hit at the hippest local clubs, as well as with a gang of drug dealers he becomes embroiled with.

David Gleeson has written and directed the picture with deep affection and impressively cinematic skill. For a low-budget film, it's visually superior to most Hollywood big-invoiced productions, and the town of Limerick has a colorful, raffish charm miles away from the dreary bog-dwellings featured in so many Irish-set films. Gleeson has also captured the irrepressible zest of a country with the largest youth population in Europe. It's a sweet, pungently comic film about discovering yourself, mercifully devoid of the cloyingness and clichs which so often permeate these endeavors. There's something here of the rambunctious joyousness of Richard Lester's early work in the '60s with The Beatles.

Legge gives a straightforward, appealing performance which fully encompasses both Shane's deep-seated insecurities and engaging malleability. Leech, brimming with bravado, is a real delight in a joyously positive gay characterization that is skillfully woven into the movie's fabric. Amy Shiels is radiantly feisty and funny as the spunky waitress somehow in love with both of them.

-David Noh