Directed by David Blair, starring David Kelly, Milo O'Shea, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Doreen Keogh, Liam Cunningham, Stanley Townsend, Pat Kinevane, Ronnie Drew.

Purporting to be a black comedy, 'Mystics' is instead farce of the most shamrocky kind. In an exceptionally diverse year for Irish film, from the righteous anger of 'Song for a Raggy Boy' to Jim Sheridan's magical 'In America' and ensemble drama 'Intermission', 'Mystics' is a disappointing throw-back to the Oirish whimsy of 'Darby O'Gill and the Little People' or, more recently (and also starring David Kelly) sleeper hit 'Waking Ned'. Kelly, teamed up with fellow old-time Irish thespian Milo O'Shea, is wasted in this charmless piece of paddywhackery.

A pair of showbiz hacks, Dave and Locky (Kelly and O'Shea) have set up a thriving business as mediums to the spirit world. Drawing on their theatrical past, they hold séances in a room they call the Temple of Truth, charging bereaved families to talk with their dear departed - Locky in the attic with a stack of notes and a whistley microphone. It's such an obvious scam that 'Mystics' loses any shred of credibility from this scene onwards, and this is only a few minutes into the film.

The rest of the plot is bound up with Dave accidentally getting in touch with a real spirit, that of dead gangster Larry (the unmistakable voice of Drew), who is planning one final heist. Suddenly the mystics are in the pay of his bling bling moll Foxy (played with relish by Doyle Kennedy), getting pressurised by Garda Foley (Cunningham) on one side and by competing crook Bosco (Kinevane) on the other. Everyone wants to know what Larry's plans are, and Dave and Locky are the only ones who can communicate with him.

Developed from a story by producer Mark O'Sullivan, not even Irish soap writer extraordinaire Wesley Burroughs ('Bracken', 'The Riordans', 'Glenroe') can turn this base metal to gold. Burroughs' normally sure touch seems to have deserted him here. Although 'Mystics' shares similarities with his feature film debut 'Rat' (about a Dublin man who turns into - what else - a rat), that film's use of the surreal and absurd raises it far above the annoying whimsy of 'Mystics'. There's not a cliché left unturned nor a malapropism left unused as David Kelly and Milo O'Shea ham it up, aided and abetted by Irish actors that should have known better, including Pat Kinevane as a cartoon villain and a bemused Liam Cunningham.

'Mystics' might be a cynical attempt to capture the profitable 'Waking Ned' audience but it fails, miserably. It's a turkey, released just in time for Christmas.

Caroline Hennessy