Welcome back to Mystery DVD Club. The idea behind this is simple: we went and bought a whole host of films that we hadn’t heard of before, none of which cost us more than a few pounds. Then, we sent them to a bunch of our writers, without telling them what ‘film’ they were going to receive. Could we unearth a hidden gem? This week, we’ve found a movie from Pierce Brosnan’s back catalogie…
Based on the book by the impressively monikered Lyndon Mallett, Taffin stars Pierce Brosnan as the titular hero, a small town Irish debt collector who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty whilst mixing with clients and local nefarious types who owe them money. He’s helped along the way by his brother Mo (Patrick Bergin), a friend who crops up every now and again, usually with a gun, and girlfriend Charlotte (Alison Doody). Though reluctant to get involved in the community, Taffin saves a sports field from closure when a syndicate decides to build a chemical plant nearby. However, the syndicate starts interfering with the community and the town convinces Taffin to help them in preventing the chemical plant from being built.
If you were a regular listener to the Adam and Joe Show on BBC Radio 6 Music, there’s every chance you’ll have come into contact with Pierce Brosnan’s Taffin through a particular line delivery of his. Rightly highlighted by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish as something quite spectacular, Brosnan’s argument-stopping delivery of the seemingly innocuous phrase ‘then maybe you shouldn’t be living here’ became an internet meme almost immediately. You could even get a t-shirt if you felt so inclined. It really is quite special and I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t allow you to hear it for yourselves.
Poor Alison Doody. I think that’s the expression I would pull if Brosnan had just elongated words at me in such a fashion. Note also how the ‘business’ is cut off in Brosnan’s opening line; it’s not just a quirk of the audio, that is exactly how it appears on the DVD. The clip may not be very long, but it manages to sum up Taffin. It’s a bit haphazard, there’s some confrontation and a fair amount of shouting.
Taffin is the kind of man who crushes a glass between a man’s hands and rips the shirts off women for no apparent reason, though thankfully not at the same time. He’s constantly talked about as a man who can get things done and is willing to use whatever means necessary. Just to prove that point, his first major scene is fighting three thugs in a restaurant to get someone’s money back. Despite his gruff exterior, Taffin is also a man who brings fresh fish for his mum, he reads of an evening and his former teacher believes he is intelligent enough to go off and make something of himself in the world.
Like Taffin the man, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. Genre conventions fly in to the small Irish town of Ballymoran at great speed; some hit the wall and stick around, some misfire and disappear in the second act. There’s the influence of the small town Western in there, with the eponymous Taffin taking on the role of the reluctant hero with dubious morals that the community needs. Film noir elements creep in with some of the cinematography, particularly the way Taffin often appears out of the shadows. Although other films manage to blend genre conventions innovatively, Taffin fails in that regard and the overall effect is muddled.
The gritty action thriller is the overriding presence, though the action is fairly tame for an 18 certificate and the thrills are somewhat lacking in its predictable plot. In the action-packed trailer, Trailer Voice Guy promises a hard-edged Brosnan kicking the seven bells out of anything he comes into contact with and lots of fire. The DVD menu is even engulfed in flames at one point to emphasize that there is fire in this film. There is fire, just not as much of it as both trailer and menu would have you believe. In fact, there really isn’t as much action as the trailer would have you believe. The trailer also states that Taffin won’t get mad, he’ll get even. This is also misleading. He does get mad, but mainly at his girlfriend.
However when it gets it right, the film is a lot of fun, both intentionally and obliviously. There’s a small town Irish comedy just bursting to get out and the film would have been much better had it pursued this angle. There’s Taffin’s attempts to get an old farmer to co-operate involving a shotgun and the phrase ‘get off my land’ which is easily the funniest intentional moment of the film. Likewise, a rock band employing Taffin to help get a new working van return later in the film to put said van to use. In these moments, it’s apparent that Taffin would have worked much better as a town versus syndicate showdown in which the local community are grossly underestimated yet win their way round. By getting bogged down in Taffin’s indecision and attempts at the more thriller-esque elements, the film loses its way a bit.
Brosnan makes Taffin a charismatic central figure and, above line delivery aside, does his best with some woefully cliched dialogue. Sandwiched in between Remington Steele and his tenure as Bond, he also makes the most of his few action sequences. The opening restaurant confrontation is the peak, a wittily choreographed spat with three brothers who Taffin takes down easily with a witty one liner or a keen right hook. It’s not hard to see why he was in consideration for Bond at this point, though tangles with Remington Steele had ensured Timothy Dalton got in there first.
If you’re a fan of the improbable actions of a big business syndicate in a small Irish town, random line deliveries and trying to determine what constitutes an intentional comic moment, Taffin will offer you a nice hour and a half’s entertainment. You may also find yourself wondering just how good this could be if say, John Michael McDonagh got his hands on it.
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