Tonight the second in a three part mini series on RTE about former Taoiseach Charles Haughey hit the screens. Local film critic, Dan McGinn, reviews part two.
Seconds out, round two.
The second episode of RTE1’s much hyped mini series ‘Charlie’ did away with last week’s pompous Oliver Stone contextual preamble.
However it remained a deeply flawed and underwhelming affair.
Aidan Gillen’s note perfect impersonation of Haughey still had a great deal of swagger about it but his performance could not paper over the massive cracks in Colin Teevan’s script.
As in the first episode, Teevan and director Kenny Glenaan raced through events – this time, 1982.
And so they gave us Haughey cutting a deal with Laurence Kinlan’s Tony Gregory to get support for his minority government in return for IR£80 million for Dublin.
We had Peter Gowen’s George Colley turning down a cabinet post but Marcus Lamb’s Des O’Malley keeping his, if only to keep an eye on Haughey.
Brown envelopes were passed to David Herlihy’s Ray Burke and Tom Vaughan Lawlor’s PJ Mara went to the Seanad and back again.
The Iraqi beef deal, the sinking of the Sharelaga, the Falklands, Haughey’s friendship with French President Francois Mitterand were all there.
We sped through the “Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented” events surrounding Attorney General Patrick Connolly and the murderer Malcolm McArthur.
Charlie McCreevy and Des O’Malley’s failed leadership heave, the assault on Jim Gibbons and Sean Doherty’s controversial term as Justice Minister – Dowra, the Kerry guards and the phone tapping of the journalists Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold – were all covered.
But once again, the screenplay let Gillen and his fellow cast members down.
We had frankly unbelievable lines like Peter O’Meara’s Brian Lenihan telling Haughey he and Margaret Thatcher were like the “Burton and Taylor of European politics” and a preposterous sequence where Haughey chewed the flesh, entrails and bones of a quail with a napkin over his head, egged on by Mitterand.
As for Des O’Malley’s swashbuckling act during the assault on Jim Gibbons, it just veered into panto.
This week, Glenaan and Teevan jettisoned the ‘Thick of It’ style walking and talking scenes for wannabe John Le Carre sequences of shadowy encounters in the dead of night.
Des O’Malley and Rory Nolan’s Charlie McCreevy met under the shade of a street light, hoping Haughey would lose his Dail vote of no confidence.
Haughey and Gavin O’Connor’s Sean Doherty met in a car to discuss the phone tapping scandal.
Brian Lenihan, meanwhile, continued to be portrayed as an amiable buffoon, Risteard Cooper’s civil servant Dermot Nally remained a buttoned up doormat and Lucy Cohu’s Terry Keane still came across as a cut price Joan Collins.
Mercifully, PJ Mara’s disappearance to the Seanad spared us a deluge of aphorisms from Tom Vaughan Lawlor, although by the end of the episode he was back in business.
As good as Gillen’s mimicry of Haughey is – il est Charlie, bien sur – even his performance was showing signs of fatigue.
Gillen seems to have resorted to sporting a gangster smirk throughout most of the proceedings – an impression underscored by his rather telling comment to Laurence Kinlan’s Tony Gregory: “As Al Capone used to say, it was a pleasure doing business with you.”
But there is also the touch of a Batman villain about him.
It’s just a pity that Teevan’s script lacks the meat of David Mamet’s ‘The Untouchables’, the cunning of Jonathan and Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Night’ or the panache of a John Le Carre novel.
The only thing keeping this reviewer’s interest alive at the end of episode two is whether Jacinta, the shopkeeper will end up as a commissioner in Brussels.
Dan McGinn is a journalist who was previously the Ireland Political Editor and Ireland Deputy Editor of the Press Association and has worked for the Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and other publications and for TV and radio. He currently works in public affairs and is also a film and television critic with his own blog, They’ll Love It In Pomona covering the latest cinema releases.