The Stag review: not your average Irish Hangover

John Butler's film follows a party of young men as they behave badly on a stag weekend - and that's where the comparisons end

The Stag
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Director: John Butler
Cert: 15A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Hugh O’Conor, Amy Huberman, Andrew Bennett, Andrew Scott
Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins

The folk behind this very agreeable comedy have politely batted aside any suggestions that it might be "an Irish The Hangover ". I know what you're thinking: they would say that, wouldn't they? (With apologies to Mandy Rice Davis.)

Director John Butler and his team do, however, have a point. Yes, The Stag follows a party of young men as they behave badly on a stag weekend. Drugs are consumed. Extreme nakedness takes place. But the film works hard at setting up a less misogynistic, more inclusive space than the one occupied by that American film. Two of the party – both named Kevin – form a gay couple. There's an undeniable warmth to the project. Nobody makes any excuses for Mike Tyson.

The perennially charming Hugh O'Conor plays a borderline-milquetoast named Fionnan (pronounced FinnAWN) who is about to get married to his patient girlfriend Ruth (Amy Huberman). Being a newish sort of man, Fionnan is reluctant to attend any sort of stag party. But Davin (Andrew Scott), his best man, eventually persuades him to relent and they make for the wilds of Wicklow.

The potential fly in the ointment is Ruth’s deranged brother (played by Peter McDonald, also co-writer), who rejoices under the soubriquet The Machine. Various attempts are made to evade the nutter, but he eventually tracks them down to their first watering hole.

The characterisation is sometimes a little inconsistent. Having established that Fionnan is deeply frightened of life, the film-makers strain credulity by having him enthusiastically consume a tab of ecstasy. For the most part, however, the actors effectively flesh out sly comic constructs with much aplomb. McDonald tackles The Machine with particular enthusiasm and injects a potentially revolting character with believable humanity.

It hardly needs to be said that, after encountering a few plot reversals, the characters reach various understandings before the picture's final triumphant singalong. That's as it should be. This is an unapologetically mainstream film that should play well far beyond these shores. That unhappy, inaccurate comparison with The Hangover will, most likely, do it nothing but good.