THE FLAG (Ireland/12A/85mins)
Directed by Declan Recks. Starring Pat Shortt, Moe Dunford, Simone Kirby, Ruth Bradley, Brian Gleeson.
THE PLOT: Harry (Pat Shortt) is having a run of bad luck; first he gets fired, then his hamster dies, then his father follows suit. Returning home for the funeral, Harry strikes up with his old friend Mouse (Moe Dunford), and discovers a statement from his grandfather claiming to have hung the flag at the top of the GPO at Easter 1916. To earn back some respect for his family, Harry decides to break into the Army barracks where the flag was last seen, and steal it back for the people of Ireland. If only things were so simple.
THE VERDICT: ‘The Flag’ is a comedy crime caper that relies heavily on the caper side of proceedings, and even though it is fairly clear that there is very little in the film that is ill-intentioned, some of the stereotypes of both English and Irish people feel very outdated.
Pat Shortt leads the cast as the luckless Harry, and is warm and charming in the role. The performance from Shortt feels natural and real, and he interacts well with the rest of the cast; Mouse the hamster included. Moe Dunford makes Mouse – the person that, presumably, the hamster was named after – charming and talkative, and although he spouts faux-Taoist spirituality, he is quite funny and warm. The rest of the cast features Simone Kirby, Peter Campion, Brian Gleeson, Sorcha Cusack and Ruth Bradley, whose Yorkshire accent is rather questionable at times.
The screenplay, written by Eugene O’Brien, seems harmless on first glance; a silly caper that ties into the national commemorations of the 1916 Rising earlier this year, but although the movie is over the top, sometimes funny and faintly ridiculous, the stereotypes that the film enforces are somewhat troubling. English people, for the most part, are portrayed as liars and thieves, and the Irish characters play up the paddywhackery to get away with their theft. There are some lines of dialogue at the end of the film that try to make up for these old-fashioned ways of portraying the two neighbouring nations. The comedy mainly comes from Pat Shortt, and he does a rather good job of keeping the film light, but capers aside, there is little to enjoy in the script.
As director, Declan Recks – fresh from his drama ‘The Truth Commissioner’ earlier this year – keeps the pace of the film moving, and plays up the physical, outlandish comedy in the film. The film moves along nicely, and the love story feels only slightly shoe-horned in, but there is little in the film that shows the English or the Irish in a favourable light.
In all, The Flag’ seems to be a well-meaning caper comedy, and there are moments of greatness from Pat Shortt, both in terms of his comedy and the light touch he portrays Harry with, but there are some troubling stereotypes in the film, dodgy accents and, when it comes down to it, not that many actual laughs.
RATING: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Irish comedies can be hit-and-miss affairs. Get it right and you’ve got a homegrown hit like The Snapper. Get it wrong and you end up with The Flag, a film that tries hard to please, but misses the mark by the length of a flag post.

    Harry (Pat Shortt) is a down-on-his-luck Paddy in the Kilburn area of London. Fired from his job as a builder for incompetence, he returns to the ‘aul sod to attend the funeral of his father. There, he comes across some correspondence relating to how his grandfather raised the Irish flag over the GPO during the 1916 Rising and signed his name on it. The British Army later took it down and apparently kept it as a trophy in a London army barracks – with the flag the wrong way round as a mark of disrespect. Harry comes up with a hare-brained scheme to get this treasured piece of family history back to Ireland. Along with mates Mouse (Moe Dunford), Blacksod (Brian Gleeson) and flirty Charlie (Ruth Bradley), they pose as builders outside the army barracks and attempt to steal the flag back…

    On paper, The Flag should work. Director Declan Recks is a director of note, having made midlands drama Eden and recently The Truth Commissioner. He’s also directed a number of comedy TV shows. Writer Eugene O’Brien is talented, with his script for Eden being particularly powerful. Throw in the ever-reliable and always welcome Shortt and rising star Dunford and you should have a formula for a successful film. Instead, The Flag plays out as a very average crime caper. The Italian Job is referenced at one point, but this film just isn’t up to that film’s standards.

    If anything, it plays out more like an overstretched half-hour comedy sketch, with over-cooked performances that seem to be from a different time. Carry On Paddy perhaps. The British characters, especially the soldiers, are little more than caricatures, the kind that made this reviewer cringe in embarrassment. Come on – surely we can do better than this towards our neighbour across the water? Despite Shortt’s best efforts, it’s just not that funny. You know a film is desperate for laughs when it resorts to toilet humour. The Flag is an earnest, well-meaning Irish film with its heart in the right place. It has a simple message about honouring your family and your country. But the delivery and execution is sloppy and has average written all over it.

    Irish Cinema has been doing so well recently, with some very interesting films like Mattress Men and A Date For Mad Mary. So, it’s disappointing that The Flag has dropped the standards to half-mast. Though, hopefully not for long. Missable paddywhackery. **