Directed by Paddy Breathnach, starring Allen Leech, Tom Jordan Murphy, Ciaran Nolan, Sean McGinley, Fionnula Flanagan and Pat Shortt.

Irish director Paddy Breathnach's fifth feature, a story of smart alecs and scams set in the grey world of greyhound activities, is a bit of a shaggy dog tale itself. It's an Irish road movie along the lines of Breathnach's excellent 'I Went Down', but 'Man About Dog' never manages to be quite as charming or as funny as that 1997 film.

Through dodgy dealings and bad luck three likely lads from Belfast - persuasive Mo Chara (Leech), unlucky Scud Murphy (Nolan) and stoner Cerebral Paulsy (Murphy) - manage to land themselves in a whole heap of trouble with bookmaker JP McCallion (McGinley). They owe £50,000 and have to pay him back in a week. In their efforts to get the cash together a whole series of misadventures befall the trio. They acquire a greyhound, only to discover that he won't run, so they sell him off to a gang of travellers (led by Shortt in stonewashed denim) - only to discover that he's great at hare coursing. After stealing the dog back, they set off for Clonmel and the biggest coursing event in Ireland, so dim-witted that they don't realise that their biggest problems - McCallion and the travellers - will turn up there too.

It's a reasonably entertaining film but, once 'Man About Dog' moves from greyhound racing to coursing, it's on shaky territory. Coursing has long been a contentious issue in the world of Irish bloodsports and, although the greyhounds sport muzzles and no hares look like they've been harmed during the film, it is still uncomfortable viewing. On the plus side, the relationship between the three luckless boyos is what really makes 'Man About Dog' come alive. Tom Jordan Murphy, recently seen in a similarly dopey role in 'Adam and Paul', and Ciaran Nolan are good but it's Allen Leech ('Cowboys & Angels') as the charismatic, happy-go-lucky Mo Chara that really stands out.

While Pearse Elliott's script could have done with a touch more polish and pacing, 'Man About Dog' is a cheerfully good-humoured romp around the back roads of Ireland.

Caroline Hennessy