As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, it is only fitting that we celebrate one of the great unsung heroes of Irish folklore who got rid of a different kind of snake. The English businessman snake. I speak of course of Mark Taffin and his best gal, played by some of Ireland’s premier “didn’t they do well for themselves in America?” actors, Pierce Brosnan and Alison Doody.
Now, even if you’ve never seen the film, you are most likely familiar with *that* scene. You all know the one, and if you don’t then maybe you shoULDN’T BE READING THI-etc. While that moment is one of the comedic highlights of the film – in regards to both the intentional and unintentional humour – there are many more sequences that arguably raise much greater questions than why Big Pierce decided to enunciate that particular line read with such elongation and volume. Still, the perfection of that moment was only intensified on my first full viewing of the film, if you’ll permit a brief anecdote.
After acquiring the film through ”internet means” – hold your boos, I am now the proud owner of the film on DVD, my debt is paid – myself and fellow HeadStuff critic Jonathan Victory were excited as the scene started, only to stare in tense confusion as the “HEEERE” kept going long past where human lung capacity ends. Reader, someone had taken the time to upload a torrent that was perfectly intact bar a small edit in that scene which inserted silent reaction shots of Doody and an elongated “here” from Brosnan, creating a truly (even more) surreal quality to the moment. I thank that anonymous pirate hero.
However, worthy of chortles and shouting-along-with a la lines from The Room, it is a film of so many more buried treasures of oddity. Right from the opening, something about the credits will jump out at you. As you listen to the slightly grating, jazz-infused, diddley-eye music; you’ll be surprised to read with your own eyes that Hans Zimmer is partially responsible. This takes place over mercifully unpretentious shots of what is quite visibly Wicklow Town and many of her well known landmarks appear throughout. Why then is it arbitrarily insisted that the film is set in an unnamed part of the west, when the novel it’s based on is actually set in England?
The nebulously “country” accents add to the geographical muddling. For one thing, several notable actors that appeared in Father Ted show up with only Ardal O’Hanlon’s absence keeping us from a pre-show appearance of the sacred trinity. Dermot Morgan plays a version of himself; the cheeky stand-up MC of the West’s premiere, er, strip club which seems to be the size of a medium-level theatre and attended by seemingly every resident of the town in the middle of the day. Meanwhile the beloved Frank Kelly plays a gentle, pub-dwelling concerned resident and Fr Todd Unctious himself – and his girlfriend; actual Twink herself – make up some small but memorable allies to our titular hero.
As you can imagine they’re all actors from different parts of the country and no great attempt was made to get everyone on the same wavelength accents-wise. Still, no one offends as much as Pierce. In many ways the original Aiden Gillan, The Bros has long lost his ability to do an authentic Irish accent and is not much better here despite being much earlier in his career. You definitely know he’s from “the country” but good luck getting more specific than that. Of course, that’s when the voice you’re hearing *is* Pierce. There’s some not-infrequent, inexplicable and unforgivably obvious ADR over some of his lines. Most of them – but definitely not all – happen when you can’t see his mouth, to try and disguise the much posher text-to-speech robot that they overlaid, but it’s not hard to spot and the story of why PB wouldn’t return to re-record them is going to have to be left to our imagination.
The giant, glaring disconnect the film fails to overcome however, is that they tried to overlay a typical American-style crime narrative of corruption in a small town onto an Irish setting while not grasping that there is a substantial gulf of difference between what America and Ireland class as a small town; there’s only about five residents, the whole plot hinges on rescuing a tiny football field from becoming a gargantuan power plant, the strip club is bigger than any building in the town, and our titular badass renegade still lives with mammy and operates his shady vigilantism out of her loft conversion. It’s like an expensive skit played entirely straight.
The film reaches its thrilling conclusion when our heroes win the day after destroying the villain’s life and career by bringing a fabricated rape case against him. Gallant stuff. However, the villain’s bosses aren’t happy and hatch a revenge plot from their nefarious skyscraper headquarters in, well, Liberty Hall – what with it being the only building in the country they could have such a staple scene of American films, in. Not to be so easily beaten, Taffin foils the hit men by surviving – via means that are never addressed – an explosion that was caused by circumstances that are never explained. The day won, Taffin meets his love and they make their romantic escape from… Busáras. Credits.
It’s a difficult film to invest any great amount of deep analysis into, there’s nothing really there. What is fascinating is the misguided series of choices and attempts to directly emulate a genre film distinctly ill-suited to the setting and the filmmakers capabilities. Involving Pierce was of course the magic ingredient that really amped up the nonsense levels. While it may never rise above being an odd curio of Irish cinema, I think it is the bad cult film this country deserves.
It would be remiss to conclude this piece without mentioning a couple things; 1) to plug my own podcast and the Taffin Episode we did last year for Paddy’s Day, and 2) the Danger Farm short which serves not only as the ultimate TL;DR to any written piece on the film but is also a thoroughly hilarious and note perfect evisceration of it.