The opening scene of this film makes sure we know who the bad-guy is, Good Joe, the greyhound trainer. We first meet him throwing a bag, full of what we are not certain but are given to understand that it is unwanted pups, into the lake. And he never really improves from that opening.
The film is set in Northern Ireland, with the troubles serving to create a history for some of the characters, while others certainly don’t want to see the Peace Process continue.
The plot revolves around Donal, who persuades Good Joe to buy a certain greyhound, his mother, Kate, played by Gillian Anderson with a not terrible accent, and a recently returned ex-IRA man, O (Robert Carlyle). Donal names the dog after a comic book he seems to read all the time, The Mighty Celt. When the dog loses his first race he almost ends up in the water with the pups, but luckily Donal returns in time to save the dog from a hammer to the head. Donal bargains with Joe and they strike a deal that Donal will train Celt, and if he wins three races will gain ownership, he’ll also have to work a lot longer hours with Joe’s other dogs.
But the film is more about the legacy of NI’s violent past. Kate’s brother was killed in 1991 while on “active service” and in the same incident O was shot and forced to flee his home. A fact commemorated in the film as it shows a memorial service, with murals, flag-waving and speeches. O returns in the course of the film, no longer a man of violence, yet never really apologetic for whatever it was he did. And it is Joe who embodies the violent tradition. Which of these two role models will have the greatest impact on Donal?
There are some lovely humourous moments in this film, as well as a few shocking ones, and over all the film is quite enjoyable. It is low-key and never ott, and all the actors do good jobs. Anderson in particular is very different, and very good, in her role as a single mother.