Star Rating:

The Belly of the Whale

Director: Morgan Bushe

Actors: Michael Smiley, Peter Coonan, Art Parkinson, Lewis Macdougall

Release Date: Friday 7th December 2018

Genre(s): Crime, Drama

Running time: 83 minutes

There's just not enough here to keep it from being anything other than just OK.

Two down-and-outs (Pat Shortt and Lewis MacDougall) come up with a plan to rob an amusement arcade, run by a devious local businessman (Michael Smiley), as revenge and as a way to set up a new life, far from Donegal.

Considering how Irish movies have, of late, been so replete with hits - 'Michael Inside' this year alone was a critical darling - it's always a bit strange when something comes along that not only fails, but does so in a genre that Irish filmmakers tend to do well. 'Belly Of The Whale', for all of its grit and grim humour, not only fails to make an impact, but is ultimately so forgettable that it barely registers across its slimmed-down runtime.

Pat Shortt plays a growling, shabbily-dressed alcoholic who's doing what he can to raise money for his sick wife's medical expenses by selling teddy bears wherever he can to whoever he can. Wandering across the land, he soon finds himself in rural Donegal, trying to convince local arcade owner Gits Hegarty - played by the ever-reliable Michael Smiley - to buy up his stock. It fails, naturally, and soon finds himself in a far worse state when his stock goes up in flames along with his mobile home. This is where the film begins to shift gear into a strange sort of heist thriller, with Shortt teaming up with bright young talent Lewis MacDougall to rob the arcade and set their lives on a different course.

Why 'Belly Of The Whale' fails to connect with an audience, despite its best intentions, is that the story never really seems to go anywhere particularly enjoyable or challenging, and it's all so grim and grisly that it just isn't enjoyable to follow it along. Not only that, the tone throughout is so uneven - flying wildly between comedy, bizarre character sketches, and then almost grindhouse horror - that it's hard to know how to take what you're seeing as serious as not.

Ultimately, it doesn't quite live up to its potential and while the cast are doing their best, there's not enough here to keep it from being any other than just OK.