out of Five
Running Time: 88
Clearly, greyhound movies are all the rage in Ireland at the moment, as The Mighty Celt is the second Irish greyhound movie in as many years (the first being the little-seen Man About Dog). However, this is by far the superior of the two, so if you see just one Irish greyhound movie this year, make it this one.
The Mighty Celt is written and directed by Pearse Elliott, who based the script on an incident from his own life. To all intents and purposes, The Mighty Celt is essentially Kes, with a dash of Irish politics and greyhounds instead of kestrels. Unsurprisingly, then, there are scenes which may be a little traumatic for young children, although they’ve got to learn about the harsh realities of life from somewhere, right?
Tyrone McKenna plays Donal, a young teen who lives in Belfast with his single mum, Kate (Gillian Anderson).
Donal doesn’t have many friends so he spends all his spare time helping Good Joe (Ken Stott), a local greyhound trainer with a murky past and a low tolerance for dogs that perform badly.
When Donal persuades Joe to buy a greyhound named The Mighty Celt, he makes a deal to train the dog, with the chance of owning him if he wins three races. Meanwhile, the mysteriously-named “O” (Robert Carlyle) reappears in Kate’s life, dredging up memories of past IRA violence and unearthing relationship secrets into the bargain.
The script is engaging, despite sticking fairly closely to the usual clichés, particularly as far as the racing scenes are concerned. However, it does have a few original moments. For example, Donal’s reaction to O’s true identity is a superbly written and acted scene.
Tyrone McKenna is a genuine find. He gives a naturalistic, thoroughly believable performance which effortlessly carries the movie. Anderson is equally good as Kate. She delivers a note-perfect Northern Irish accent that suggests her days as Dana Scully are well and truly behind her. Carlyle is perfectly cast and he has a chemistry with Anderson that is pleasantly surprising. Meanwhile, Stott manages to be even more evil as Good Joe than he was as Hitler in TV’s Uncle Adolph.
In short, The Mighty Celt is an engaging, well-written drama that’s worth seeing for its performances. Plus, it has a running time that is entirely arse-friendly. Recommended.