In the wake of the Good Friday Agreement, former IRA members in Belfast are murdered in keeping with their favoured forms of terrorism. One detective (Colm Meaney), on the verge of retirement, takes on the mission to find those responsible for the new wave of murders.
If you have heard of A Belfast Story, then you have probably heard of the ill-conceived PR stunt that entailed sending nails and balaclavas to members of the film journalism community. I was not one of the few to receive this promotional pack, but on watching the film, it is clear why the filmmakers thought this type of promotion would be suitable for the film.
A Belfast Story employs every cliché in the book; a tenacious cop on the verge of retirement, a personal vendetta and gruesome murders. There could well be a thriller at the heart of the film, but it is lost in a sea of hammy acting – even from the normally fantastic Meaney – confusing conflicts and horrible dialogue. There rarely comes along a film that is so offensive to cinemagoers as a whole, but A Belfast Story strives to that lofty goal.
Meaney gives one of the worst performances we have ever seen from him, but in fairness to the actor, it is not necessarily his fault. Meaney has to contend with monologues to an empty room, a plot made all the more complex by its seeming disregard for history and some of the worst dialogue committed to film this year.
Writer/director Nathan Todd takes on recent history and tramples all over the efforts made on both sides of the conflict. There is little doubt that the story is hugely insensitive – ending the film with a ‘united Ireland’ is a particular sticking point – but the execution of the former IRA members goes from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous; nail bombs explode in houses but only damage the intended victim, and a poisoned fish supper takes out another. Honestly, this hokey and badly thought out story telling simply has to be seen to believed, but I would not wish that upon you.
A Belfast Story is insulting to anyone Irish, Northern Irish, English or anyone who has an interest in film. Colm Meaney tries his best to redeem this sham of a ham-fest but fails miserably, tripping over the Northern Irish accent as he goes. There are some films that are so bad they’re good, and others that are so badly conceived that they should never have been made. A Belfast Story is the latter.