Saturday, June 09, 2007

A TIGER'S TAIL - directionless social criticism of the Irish boom

Ireland has accumulated massive wealth over the past ten years. Much of this wealth has been generated through property development and there are plenty of examples of corruption in the granting of planning permits on the news. A trip to Dublin today is fascinating. There's more congestion getting into town from the airport than from Heathrow to Central London. Grafton Street has smarter shops and richer customers than Bond Street. Temple Bar is full of British hen nights and stag do's - there's barely an Irishmen there. (Even the bar staff seem to come from Eastern Europe). And the top end hotels rival the most expensive European capital in price. The International Financial Centre is crammed with big name banks; the International Film Festival is approaching the glamour of London's; and house prices have rocketed......But as with most economic booms, the gap between the haves and haven-nots has widened, and for every self-made millionaire there are first-time home-buyers who have been squeezed off the bottom of the housing ladder.

Writer-director John Boorman (THE TAILOR OF PANAMA) has made a brave attempt to chronicle this modern Irish crisis of conscience. The first forty minutes or so of his film, A TIGER'S TAIL is brilliantly perceptive. Dublin is seen as a city that is constipated with traffic and so gorged on money and excessive consumption that it's literally vomiting. Brendan Gleeson plays a millionaire property developer called Michael O'Leary who has benefited from the Celtic Tiger economic boom. He's got a fabulous house, a bolshie son (Sean McGinley) and a glamourous wife (Kim Cattrall.) But he's haunted by a down-at-heel doppelganger who may be a long-lost brother and seems to be after his life.

So the movie turns from social criticism to a weak thriller of sorts. It goes seriously off the tracks when the imposter turfs the real O'Leary from the family home. Cattrall struggles with her Irish accent, and the sex scene between her and Gleeson is laughable - whether intended or not. The movie then lurches on with melodramatic reunions, implausible events and decisions, and finally stutters to a close. It's a tremendous shame that the weak writing and lack of clear vision for the project undermined the fine opening section. One for DVD at best.

A TIGER'S TAIL is on release in the UK and opens in Israel on June 28th 2007.

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