A Belfast Story is what you might expect to see on ITV on a hopelessly wet Sunday night in February. It is one of those portentous crime dramas that grind slowly on towards an ending that doesn’t exactly have you on the edge of your seat. In this instance, the portentous ITV-style crime drama explores the uneasy peace in Northern Ireland.
The veteran Republican turned First Minister (played by Fair City’s Tommy O’Neill) is decidedly uneasy these days. Reprisals against old comrades are being carried out - paramilitary feud or private vendetta who knows. A nail bomb decapitates one victim who employed nail bombs himself to kill in his 'heyday'.
A pensioner dies from a heart attack - the mere ticking of the detonator kills him. As with the nail bomb expert, this former paramilitary used detonators to kill. Colm Meaney is the veteran/Unionist background detective, James, who must find the killers.
The Chief Constable (Malcolm Sinclair) believes the retired detective might have some insight into who the perpetrators are, and if a Loyalist element was involved. In the decidedly unsubtle script, Meaney does a hell of a lot of moaning (he doesn't have to do much else, in fact.). When he is not talking to himself, he talks to a killer’s corpse instead. Maybe the poor wife in the terraced house can’t listen to him anymore.
The First Minister has some unfortunate lines. "We're sculpting hope from ashes," he explains to someone. "It's a delicate process that can bear no interruption." When challenged by his aide (Susan Davey), he defends himself regarding the sins of the past. “I’ve connected the evilness of those on our side with the mainstream,” he says, which is some mouthful.
Exasperated, he finally tells the young aide that she is too young to remember the causes. “That’s true, so I don’t have to let them mould the future,” she retorts.
Do people really talk like that up North, never mind think like that? They certainly do not. A more realistic script would certainly have helped this very limp effort.