Man About Dog is a great little Irish comedy inspired one thinks by the “Steptoe and son” movie from the 1970 and sharing the same basic premise: Dog racing.
As we are told in the opening narrative, Dog racing is a very important sport in Ireland and it certainly seems so if this movie is to be believed. Director Paddy Breathnach has assembled an excellent cast to perform Pearse Elliot’s script and knows how to direct them to maximum effect, another one of those fine directors who knows how to make the most of a limited budget. Alan Leach, Tom Murphy and Ciaran Nolan all star in this offbeat (maybe off-beast) comedy about three Belfast lads who inherit a racing dog, amusingly called Cerberus. Unfortunately, they also anger the dog’s previous owner who comes after them in a “Guy Ritchie Movie” sort of way. With no other way out, the lads pile themselves and Cerberus into their van and head for the South. There, they get involved in a variety of adventures and half brained schemes to make some money most of which are hilarious, giving the actors a lot of nice set pieces to play with.
The three stars are obviously not big names and are sometimes a little shaky but on the whole play their roles well, convincing as old friends and partners in terror. The dog racing backdrop is hardly the most glamorous that the film makers could have chosen but that offsets nicely the “Trainspotting” type violence and realism that pervades the more serious moments of the story of which there are plenty. In fact the mix between comedy and drama is sometimes uncomfortable, feeling as if it has been mistimed, but the plot holds it together, it’s simple but effective, exactly what a film like this needs.
Breathenach clearly knows how to tell a story and the plot clips along at a good rate, whilst always leaving breathing space for the character comedy to shine through. It’s also go the bonus of being wonderfully full of swearing, doing nothing to dispute the Irish stereotyping there but great fun nonetheless.
Director: Paddy Breathnach
Writer: Pearse Elliott
Stars: Allen Leech, Tom Murphy and Ciaran Nolan