Directed by: Mike Cockayne // Starring: Martin Maloney, Chris Tordoff, Owen Colgan // Ireland
IMDB // Screened at JDIFF on February 19th 2013
The Hardy Bucks’ impressive succession of incremental achievements is well-trodden territory so it’s probably best to leave all that to one side for now. We are where we are. A series of events has ultimately led to Universal Pictures financing a motion picture about a bunch of mates from Mayo who go on a European road-trip culminating in their attendance of the final group game of a football tournament. The resulting film The Hardy Bucks Movie hits the big screen this weekend and if that plot summary did little to inspire confidence then surely what surrounded it was enough to deflate expectations altogether.
In pre-production, director Mike Cockayne worried about how often he caught the cast referring to “the shoot” as “the holiday”. Then with shooting underway, Murphy’s Law conspired to ensure that Trapp’s Army got royally humiliated, rendering the ‘pivotal’ game utterly redundant. The plot thinned. All this amid permit restrictions, foreign locals being cast into the movie on the spot, scenes being interrupted by rowdy Irish abroad. Then came that trailer. A humourless, cringingly VO’d, studio-exec-overseen damp squib of a preview that damningly exclaimed the movie to be “The Irish Hangover”…
But forget all that. Because here’s the thing. Production may have been mayhem but what arrives on screen is the most beautiful kind of mayhem imaginable. This is cleverly plotted, impressively acted and appears to deliver a perfect blend of disciplined dialogue and inspired improvisation.
Owen Colgan is off-puttingly believable as sex-obsessed-but-harmless Buzz while Tom Kilgallon (The Boo) subtly underplays the get-rich-quick schemer trope with the delicate diction and gentle tone of your most caring, affectionate aunt. Alpha male rabble-rouser Eddie (Martin Maloney) may be the glue that binds the Bucks together but he’s practically a straight man compared to wildly impressive Chris Tordoff as Viper Higgins. Yorkshire native Tordoff gained recognition from industry heavyweights Iannucci and Linehan for his alternative Olympics sailing commentary – one to watch on the international comedy scene. Okay, Michael Salmon (tellingly playing “himself”) cannot act to save his life but even that’s amusing in its own way. Particularly in the scene where he’s actually trying to save his life.
Sure on the surface it’s just sex, drugs and football but at its core it’s about a bunch of pathetic, self-centred lads who never grew up and never will. Best friends whose loyalty only extends as far as it suits them. Mike Leigh and Ken Loach get lavishly acclaimed for portraying gritty social realism on screen but they’ve never been to Abrakebabra at 2am on a Saturday night. Either by accident or design, beneath all the exaggerated caricatures and surreal asides there are deep-rooted representations rendered here that say as much about the adolescent aimlessness of a generation of Irish males as Withnail & I did about unemployed actors in England or Girls does about ambitious interns in New York. And boy does it bring the laughs…
An annoying series of animated interludes and a trite Kasabian tune that soundtracks their Amsterdam escapades are practically the only misfires in a pert, face-achingly funny 90 minutes. No, I didn’t see it coming either… but a bunch of mates from Mayo have just made a modern comedy masterpiece.