Gillian Anderson brings a dash of Hollywood glitz to The Mighty Celt, a gentle rites-of-passage tale about a Belfast boy with a passion for greyhound racing. Directed by Pearse Elliott, scripter of last year's Man About Dog, it's a slight and rather dour tale with images of (simulated) animal cruelty that will have pooch lovers foaming at the mouth. That said, it's refreshing to see a flick from the top half of the Emerald Isle that doesn't focus exclusively on the troubles and their aftermath.
Billed as "the first post-conflict film to come out of Northern Ireland", Elliott's drama revolves around Donal (Tyrone McKenna), a resourceful lad who juggles school with after hours work for tough-as-nails dog owner Good Joe (Ken Stott). After saving an unpromising mutt from his employer's knife, Donal dubs him The Mighty Celt after one of his favourite comicbook heroes and trains him to beat all comers on the track.
Meanwhile, single mother Kate (Anderson, looking decidedly un-glam and sporting a perfect Ulster brogue) gets gradually reacquainted with O (Robert Carlyle), a former boyfriend and reformed terrorist who has returned from exile to rebuild his life.
"THE ROMANCE REAPS RICH DIVIDENS"
As a writer Elliott romanticises both Donal's grinding poverty and O's balaclava past, while a subplot involving Real IRA gun-runners is left bafflingly unexplored. But the unlikely romance that develops between Dana Scully and Hamish Macbeth reaps rich dividends. And mischievous newcomer McKenna - despite boasting an accent that could easily cut glass - gives an eye-catching performance loaded with promise.