Nobody can question the intent of writer and director, Nathan Todd, whose movie A Belfast Story goes about tackling Troubles-related issues that most writers wouldn’t touch. Incorporating riots, issues of dealing with the past, ex-paramilitary members living in free society and a First Minister who’s only a thin veil for Martin McGuiness, the movie starts off with an interesting premise but suffers from a poor execution and a perplexing ending which is likely, in a place like Northern Ireland, to offend someone.
The story is initially intriguing; Colm Meaney is believable as a hardened, seen-it-all-before style detective who is called upon to figure out who keeps killing ex-IRA members and why. Meaney attempts to put on a good show, but as the movie progresses the story increasingly gets boiled down to murder-mystery clichés – there’s the wet-behind-the-ears sidekick who vomits at gore and always gets it wrong, the angry boss who just wants the press off his back, and Meaney himself who can’t shake some terrible incident from his past. Admittedly, all of this is a lot more interesting with a post-Troubles backdrop but you get the feeling that – when compared with that other recent Troubles-inpsired thriller, Shadow Dancer – Todd could’ve made this thriller just a bit more…thrilling.
And as plots and sub-plots start to fizzle out without any real climax, the movie becomes more about sending out a message to Belfast about its future than about telling a story. Whether the message is right or not is left to the audience to decide but ultimately it makes for a decidedly weak ending.
The dialogue is good some of the time, the murders are grisly and inventive most of the time, but none of this seems enough to salvage what is, largely, a mediocre story about Belfast’s recent history.
Showing in Movie House Cinema, Dublin Rd.