Directed by Paul Mercier, starring Brendan Gleeson, David Wilmot, David Herlihy, Eanna Mac Liam, Eamonn Owens, Liam Carney, Tom Ó Suilleabháin, Emmet Scanlan and Domhnall Gleeson.
Originally a play, 'Studs' first appeared in Dublin's SFX 20 years ago. Back then, Ireland was ravaged by social depravation, poverty, inequality and mass unemployment. In that context, the story of a downtrodden local soccer side upsetting the odds by embarking on an unlikely cup run would tap into the psyche of the times. Maybe if writer-director Paul Mercier had left his tale in the 1980s this incarnation would have worked. However, by attempting to force the story into a modern day setting, he has gravely misjudged his own work.
Brendan Gleeson plays Walter Keegan, who offers his managerial services to lowly Emmet Rovers FC. The side have become cannon fodder for the majority of their opponents and morale is at an all-time low. On top of that, they could soon lose their home ground to developers. When Walter is handed the job, he sets about plotting his new charges' cup campaign. His tactics appear unconventional at first, but it soon becomes clear that there is method in his madness.
A grand array of homegrown actors is assembled here, with Gleeson adding his international stature to affairs. But, like many a hapless manager, Mercier has failed to get the best out of the talent at his disposal.
The era may have changed, but so much of this adaptation is obviously rooted in its original version (the characters and dialogue especially) that the production as a whole comes across as terribly dated. The action scenes are bitterly disappointing and are so poorly done that actually watching Sunday morning football in the park would be far more entertaining.
Irish cinema is still basking in the reflected glory of the recent triumph of 'Six Shooter' at the Academy Awards. Indeed Gleeson, his son Domhnall and David Wilmot all appeared in Martin McDonagh's acclaimed short. Their presence, coupled with the feelgood factor following such a high-profile success, may lead many to gloss over this film's many failings. This is a dangerous ploy. In soccer, it is widely accepted that you are only as good as your last game. Should this effort ride the crest of the current wave, and largely satisfy Irish audiences, we will be admitting defeat and consigning ourselves to mid-table mediocrity.
Ireland was a difficult and lonely place to be for many in the 1980s and early 1990s. Films like 'The Commitments' and 'The Snapper' helped highlight a lot of things wrong with our society at that time, while also putting a humourous slant on the situation. Last year's excellent TV series 'Pure Mule' went some way towards offering an insight into modern day rural Ireland. Our increasingly affluent, cosmopolitan and dangerous capital could desperately do with something similar.
This is a movie that should be really easy to enjoy, which makes it all the more galling that it isn't. If there is any sense left in us at all, the list of begrudgers will be a long one.