DIR: Declan Recks • WRI: Eugene O’Brien • PRO: Nicholas Stoller • DOP: Cathal Watters • ED: Dermot Diskin • DES: Mark Kelly • MUS: Stephen McKeon • CAST: Pat Shortt, Ruth Bradley, Simone Kirby, Moe Dunford
When so much of Ireland’s cultural output this year has focused on The Irish Centenary, The Flag feels less like a film and more adhering to trends if nothing else. Produced by RTE and IFB, there is very little to say about the Irish comedy starring Pat Shortt. It’s equally hard to imagine anyone without interest in the comedian and star of D’Unbelievables and Killinascully to be remotely interested in seeing the film. Everything about The Flag, from its story to its sense of humour, screams the word apathy. Essentially an hour and a half revolving around Pat Shortt and The 1916 Rising, it can’t help but feel dated even before its release.
The script by Eugene O’Brien, who has worked with director Declan Recks numerous times before, is as uninspired as it gets. Harry Hambridge (Pat Shortt) is a hapless construction worker who loses his job, his pet mouse, and his father on the same day. Returning to his hometown for the funeral, he reunites with old friends but when Harry discovers his grandfather not only participated in The Rising, but signed and raised the flag on the GPO, Harry becomes determined to track it down. However, after visiting the British government, officials insist that they no longer have such a flag, Undeterred, Harry and his group of friends plan an elaborate heist to retrieve the flag from a British facility which hang the tricolours upside-down in their mess hall.
If the name Harry Hambridge hadn’t already signalled how perfunctory The Flag can be, then the jokes most certainly will. The very first gag showing Pat Shortt’s builders crack sets the standard for the overall running time. Visual gags are often poorly timed or even framed in ways that leave the joke out of focus. A seduction of an entry guard to the facility shows the officer’s smiling face as he raises the barrier, ignoring the obvious erection metaphor as he lifts the pole into the air. Often jokes aren’t really jokes, employing Irish colloquialisms as punchlines to scenes or making reference to films like The Italian Job because people like The Italian Job. The jokes are so lazy that a jab at Margaret Thatcher in 2016 induces more groans than laughs.
Admittedly, The Flag works best as an exercise on how not to make a comedy but it also reveals a continual issue with RTE in general. In its attempt at producing films and shows which reflect Irish society and culture, it often fails to capture the essence of Ireland itself. References are made to Paul McGrath, austerity, paddies, and a token lesbian named Agnes is inserted to acknowledge last year’s marriage referendum and make Pat Shortt look like an exceptionally good guy. In a sense, it reflects things associated with Ireland but fails in creating a mood connoting Irishness that RTE often attempts to purport. However, that’s a much lengthier discussion and more thought than anything given to the overall creation of The Flag. At best, it can be recommended to those who admire Pat Shortt and are willing to see anything he does, but there is so little offered in the film that it will inevitably plummet into complete obscurity within a year at least.
12A (See IFCO for details)
The Flag is released 14th October 2016