Director: John Butler
Cast: Andrew Scott, Hugh O’Conor, Peter McDonald, Brian Gleeson, Michael Legge, Andrew Bennett, Amy Huberman
Running Time: 1 hour 34 minuets
Release Date: Friday 7th March 2014
Sherlock Holmes fans will be well aware of Irish born actor Andrew Scott‘s formidable talent from his stint as the enigmatically menacing and utterly psychotic Jim Moriarty. A nation became wholly hooked by his supreme performance and soon fans across the globe celebrated as Scott bagged a BAFTA for his Sherlock supporting role in 2012. Despite this being his arguably break out role, Scott has appeared in a number of different productions, including the 2014 John Butler flick The Stag.
With the hugely popular Scott at it’s centre, The Stag follows the story of enthusiastic rambler Davin as he’s roped into organising a last minuet ‘Stag Do’, or bachelor party for our friends across the pond, for his best friend and frenzied groom, Fionan; played by Hugh O’Conor. With some much needed persuasion from the groom’s brother, his boyfriend and best friend (Brian Gleeson, Michael Legge, Andrew Bennett) ; Fionan agrees to an extreme-walking stag do, as long as his fiancé’s manic brother doesn’t attend.
Nicknamed ‘The Machine’ (Peter McDonald), Fionan’s soon to be brother in law is known for his widely inappropriate behaviour, short temper and love of all things risky. Well what do you know, the big guy finds out about it; what are the chances? With The Machine tagging along for the adventure, Davin, Fionan and the boys must tackle their way through the Irish wilderness for two days of freedom, all while trying to keep The Machine from driving them all crazy.
With the script written by Butler and McDonald, the dialogue has a sharp and edgy wit to it that marries well with some more traditional, juvenile forms of comedy that go so well with a narrative such as this. There are both moments of physical comedy, slight satire and sarcasm; a range that works well with the varied collection of character types.
While the dialogue is written with great thought and remains consistently good throughout the entire film, much of the action and general pacing of the remaining content often feels slightly disjointed, often rushed and at times a little boring. The beginning on the narrative gets off to a slow start. As the audience are introduced to the main character’s, it feels particularly sluggish; despite some of the humorous back and forth in dialogue.
Luckily, the pace quickens as the boys set off on their Ireland adventure and the central section of the film is by far it’s strongest. Much on the narrative takes place within the wilderness of Ireland’s forestry and Butler and McDonald do well to integrate the character’s backstories and unseen relationships into the relevant scenes, so that the audience are able to quickly interpret the hidden looks and off-hand comments of the conflicting characters.
The cast really is a smorgasbord of comedic talent as each actor brings a different energy to the films general tone and comedy formula. Scott in particular is a joy to watch as his sometimes subtle, often exaggerated facial expressions and body language mirror the audience’s own shock and delight at The Machine’s behaviour. As a pairing, Scott and McDonald are a brilliant and funny duo. The comedy really picks up when the boys all take a hit of MDMA and begin a drug fuelled night of nudity in the dark and lonely forest. The guy’s physical comedy is hilarious and these scene is without a doubt the strongest and funniest moment in the entire narrative.
As funny as it is, Butler and McDonald attempt to create a sincere and touching emotional storyline of unrequited love and the strength of friendship. While this is perfectly justified within the narrative and, at times, has a slight emotional impact on the audience; it often feels forced and weak. This can distract from the initial narrative as the film works best as a light comedy.
While the narrative is simple and the pacing feels a little blurred; Butler’s The Stag is a witty and charming Irish affaire. With a great, humble sense of humour and brilliant performances, the film may not be changing the face if cinema anytime soon but makes for a perfectly fine escape into the silly lives of some silly men.