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New Release Review - The Stag

A group of mild-mannered men reluctantly embark on a stag night with a sociopath.

Directed by: John Butler
Starring: Andrew Scott, Hugh O'Conor, Peter McDonald, Amy Huberman, Brian Gleeson


Effeminate Dubliner Fionnan (O'Connor) is so obsessed with planning his wedding to Ruth (Huberman) that he shows no interest in embarking on the time honored ritual of the stag night. Ruth, however, talks Fionnan's best friend, University lecturer Davin (Scott), into convincing Fionnan to take off for a hiking weekend with his closest friends. Unbeknownst to Fionnan are the feelings Davin still has for Ruth, who he dated several years ago. The bunch heads off and the weekend seems set to be a success until Ruth's sociopath brother, known only as 'The Machine' (McDonald), arrives with his own plans for how the weekend should progress.
In recent years we've seen the sub-genre of "bromance" comedies rise to the fore, thanks to a bunch of movies that usually star a combination of Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughan or Paul Rudd. Over the last couple of years this approach has taken a dark turn with despicable movies like Project X, 21 & Over and this year's That Awkward Moment mining new depths of misogyny, homophobia, racial stereotyping and generally obnoxious behavior.  John Butler's new Irish comedy, The Stag, thankfully avoids these tropes, returning to a lighter approach more reminiscent of eighties buddy comedies. The characters, excluding of course the movie's antagonist, The Machine, all seem like people whose company you could enjoy without wanting to strangle them, a rare claim for this type of movie. There's even a gay couple who we're prompted to laugh with, not at. Toilet humor is practically absent and there are no bodily fluids spilled onscreen.
All this is commendable but, unfortunately, the film fails because as a comedy, it's simply not funny. For all its representations of modern progressive Irish society, the humor is terribly dated. Tiresome gags are milked from character's names, with Fionnan constantly reminding others how his name should be pronounced, "It's Fionn-awn!", and The Machine insisting on calling Davin "Gavin". McDonald gives the movie's strongest performance in the role but the character of The Machine is a walking comedy cliche, American Pie's Stifler straddled with post Celtic Tiger debt. We also get an obligatory "characters get stoned and do something really dumb" scene.
Fans of BBC's Sherlock will likely make up the majority of The Stag's audience, with that show's Moriarty, Scott, in a leading role, much like how the unwatchable Charlie Casanova cashed in on its Hollyoaks star, Emmett Scanlan. 
If you wish to hear Moriarty singing the Irish folk song, 'On Raglan Road', you'll be satisfied. If it's a laugh fest you're after, The Stag fails to deliver.
4/10


Eric Hillis

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