Street Fighting Priest – ★★★½
Calvary – for the heathens among you – is where they crucified Jesus. It is also the name for John Michael McDonagh’s new film starring Brendan Gleeson in one of his best roles to date. The pair are reunited having previously worked together on The Guard and this time around we have a much more enjoyable work with some great supporting roles.
Gleeson plays Fr. James who learns while taking confession that a member of the parish is intent on killing him. While Fr. James has done no wrong the perpetrator feels it will generate more headlines if a “good” priest is murdered. We then follow the life of Gleeson over seven days as he encounters his eccentric parishioners.
A host of Irish acting talent is on display from Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran to Aidan Gillen and David McSavage. Kelly Reilly as Gleeson’s daughter is brilliantly cast, whereas Aidan Gillen seems to be unsure of what is required of him. How someone from Ireland acting in a film set in Ireland can get an Irish accent so wrong is startling. McSavage as Gleeson’s superior seems like a big inside joke for Irish audiences as they will recognise his character from his satire show “The Savage Eye”, making it impossible for you to take his part seriously.
The film belongs to Gleeson who plays a man who came to the priesthood after losing his wife and still grapples with the many moralistic mores of society. He watches over his flock with a compassionate eye looking out for their best interests but unafraid to stand his ground.
It has less paddywhackery than The Guard by a healthy margin and takes a more considered look at the various players in Irish society today. It tries to be too clever for its own good at times, pulling you out of the film with a wink and a nod but thankfully these moments are few and far between and it doesn’t suffer the predictability of The Guard in its final act.
Sligo is also a main star of the piece with many an aerial shot of Benbulbin cutting throw the dialogue, providing its own sense of drama. With some razor-sharp dialogue, terrifying analogies and hilarious characters Calvary doesn’t quite gel together as a whole, but it is undoubtedly a five star performance from Brendan Gleeson.
Opening across Ireland on April 11th