The Stag

In Films by Shelley Marsden

It’s not as bawdy as its title might suggest. But John Butler’s directorial debut, The Stag, a comedy with a heart about an Irish stag party gone awry, is a tad predictable and tends to prompt vaguely amused snorts rather than the true belly laughs its aiming for.

Still, this is feel-good territory and it does what it says on the tin. Fionnan (Hugh O’Connor) is a seriously metrosexual groom to be, busily making twee dioramas of the wedding reception (he’s a set designer) while his despairing girlfriend Ruth (Amy Huberman) starts to wish he was a little more, well, blokey about things.

A stag weekend of camping in the Irish wilderness is duly organised, by Fionnan’s best man David (played by Sherlock’s Andrew Scott – in a new kind of role for him), and with Ruth’s alpha-male brother ‘The Machine’ (Moone Boy’s Peter McDonald who co-wrote the script) tagging along – to the horror of the rest of the decidedly un-macho gang.

Also on board are Simon (Brian Gleeson), who reveals his business is crumbling under huge debts and allows for a bit of reflection on the state of Ireland’s economy – ok, two minutes of reflection – and Fionnan’s younger brother Little Kevin (Michael Legge) and his partner Large Kevin (Andrew Bennett).

The Machine was created as the character nobody wants at their stag party, and initially he does come across as a bit of an anti-Christ character, like an Irish extra from Deliverance, charging at these pale, unsuspecting Irishmen from behind a bush with his verbal tirades.

There are also rumblings between Davin and Fionnan as it becomes clear that the former, who used to go out with Ruth, still holds a candle for her. There are heart-to-hearts and home truths round the campfire too, but they border on the formulaic.

Aside from the boring bits, cue a series of silly antics, including a rather over-played nude scene and one or two truly laugh-out-loud moments, such as when The Machine meets his match with an electric fence (and you can’t help but smile here – maybe he’ll shut up for two minutes).

Scott gives a decent performance and the scenery is pleasant to look at as it all kicks off. You can see what Butler was trying to do here, including playing with different clichés surrounding masculinity, but he needed to push the boat out much further to say anything profound about the modern man.

As it stands, The Stag is an enjoyable romp in the Irish countryside that will pass the time quite nicely.