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cast: Brendan Gleeson, Tomas O'Suilleabhain, Laura McGuirk, David Wilmot, and Eamonn Owens

writer and director: Paul Mercier

90 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
A hopeless Sunday football team in Ireland is revolutionised by a legendary Irish hatchet man; dragging them up by the bootstraps using unorthodox methods, such as intentionally losing to fool the watching scouts. Emmet Rovers go from being perennial losers to cup finalists in 90 minutes, which is of course the running time of a standard football match. I am afraid to say that if this was meant it was probably the cleverest point of note about the movie.

Studs is an Irish Jossie's Giants (a cult kids UK football programme about a hopeless football team... you get the picture). Unfortunately, throughout the years, despite football's enduring position as the most popular sport on the planet, there have been very few great football films. It could be argued that Escape To Victory sets the benchmark, and against that benchmark Studs falls a long way short. In contrast the number of great boxing films are too numerous to mention. Perhaps it is the fact that football requires a team, and thus a spread of characters, that it struggles.

This is apparent in Studs as writer and director Paul Mercier seems intent on spreading the limelight across every single player in the team, but instead achieves the effect of character dilution. Only Brendan Gleeson gives a performance that is somewhere above average as the 'Cloughesque' manager of Emmet Rovers. This you would expect from an actor whose CV includes playing 'Mad-Eye' Moody in the Harry Potter franchise, as well as appearances in Braveheart, M:I 2, Gangs Of New York, and 28 Days Later, amongst others.

The film is not without its humorous moments, however, there is far too much reliance on toilet humour to make it a film one would watch again and again, such as man-in-defensive-wall being struck in the groin area, or same man in later game being struck in the face. As a spectacle the film is at best okay, but neither settles on being an overt football comedy, or covert psychological study of a manager's influence on a team and the individuals within. The soundtrack is not in keeping with the picture. You would be forgiven for thinking the film was set in 1980s' inner-city London as ska tracks backed all games. It is hard to fathom the connection between ska and rural Ireland.

Studs is fashioned from a play, and perhaps therein lies the root of the major flaws. It is a film that will neither offend nor inspire; the most impressive piece of filming is how the final game is presented via a captain narrated montage, an innovative way to run through the cup final goals (sorry, now you know it doesn't finish 0-0).

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