Miriam Lord’s Week: Banking film is a guaranteed scary Halloween spectacle

Zombie banks, dead flies and Fran from Love/Hate – ‘The Guarantee’ is Nightmare on Kildare Street, without the spine-tingling suspense

Sure what else would you be doing of a Friday morning only going to the movies?

If nothing else but to take your mind off the alarming disappearance of Gerry Adams over the last few days.

And in this Halloween season, it’s hard to resist a homegrown nightmare of epic proportions getting the big-screen treatment.

The Guarantee held out the thrilling promise of a spine-tingling story about the rise of the zombie banks – with added Biffo.


There was never going to be a happy ending.

The film, according to the makers, “recreates the drama surrounding the most significant political decision in modern Irish history; when the Irish government decided to guarantee the entire domestic banking system. It charts the origins of that pivotal decision and follows developments through the peak of the boom to the beginning of the bust.”

That’s a lot to cram into 80 minutes.

This much-awaited movie is an adaptation of writer Colin Murphy's stage show Guaranteed! which proved a big success with theatre audiences.

But, of course, it could never be a fly-on-the-wall account of what happened...

Because we don’t know what happened.

So instead, what we got yesterday was a dead-fly-on-Seánie-FitzPatrick’s-bedside-locker account of what bits of information are already in the public domain.

But never mind the confusing documentary element. Bring on the drama.

Although when the dead fly on Seánie’s bedside locker assumes a starring role – perhaps it holds some deep meaning – it says a lot about the dramatic allure of the main characters.

And there they are in front of us, the boom and bust boys we all know, from a bucolic Brian Cowen to an urbane Brian Lenihan, a smooth Seánie Fitz to a foul-mouthed David Drum.

That’s more like it. This is what we came to see.

If The Guarantee can't tell us any more than the many books and documentaries , at least we might glean a little more about the principals involved.

We don’t, really.

But Peter Coonan as Anglo's David Drumm is good value for "the moolah" as he curses his way through lines heavily influenced by the Anglo tapes. Coonan, of course, is better known as lovable psycho Fran from Love/Hate. Fran and the Drummer share the same accent and mannerisms.

We kept expecting him to whip out his false teeth before his acolytes in the Four Seasons and shout “Howaya Nidgey”.

Morgan C Jones is suitably suave as FitzPatrick, although the lingering image of him on the side of his bed in vest and Y-fronts nearly did for us.

Maybe the fly – it made a number of cameo appearances – died of fright. Or boredom.

But it gave rise the movie’s major question: was megabucks Seánie too mean to employ a cleaner?

You see, when you’re not engrossed in a character, the mind tends to wander. As it did when we watched a handsome, velvety-toned Brian Lenihan (David Murray) trying to cope with the unfolding meltdown. Now where did we see that fella before?

Then the penny drops. The minister for finance used to be that debonair chap swanning through Dublin Airport in a TV ad for the newly opened Terminal 2. When we still had notions. Clever, if that’s what the makers intended.

He smoulders a lot.

Smouldering back is the female interest (Kate Walsh). She’s a civil servant, we know this because she works in the Department of Finance and wears a gold fáinne. She knows something is terribly wrong with the banks. We know this because she wears the permanently worried expression of a woman at work who thinks she’s left the immersion on.

Then there’s Brian Cowen (Gary Lydon). We were looking forward to seeing him on the big screen. Compared to dreamy Brian Lenihan, he’s a bit of a bumpkin, but with a good heart. He’s defeated by the Nespresso machine in his office. Lenihan isn’t, naturally.

In one of the opening shots we see him eating his dinner, noisily, in the middle of the day. And when the minister for finance asks him does he know about rugby, he says he’s a GAA man. It’s all a bit clunky.

There was a good smattering of pol corrs and business reporters among the usual movie critics at yesterday’s screening. They seemed to be getting most enjoyment out of spotting colleagues on the screen.

In fairness to writer Murphy, director Ian Power and producer John Kelleher, they were somewhat hamstrung in what they could show. Events leading to the collapse of Anglo are still winding through the courts.

The story builds to that late night meeting six years ago in Government Buildings which resulted in the bank guarantee. It builds until the violinists doing the ominous strings collapse from exhaustion.

When that meeting thankfully arrives, we see some grey men in a room. The ominous strings get second wind and some support from a doom-laden piano. The window blind is drawn and the door closes. It takes an age to close, bathed in glowing celestial light.

And then AJ Chopra pops up with a big smile on his face and goes: “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

We made that last bit up.

The Guarantee opens on limited release on Thursday.

Watch out Irish Water – Hurricane Willie’s approaching

You may have read our Dáil report this week on Willie O’Dea’s declaration that he won’t be giving Irish Water his PPS number. But the former Fianna Fáil minister is great when he gets going. It’s worth looking at his full Dáil contribution on the matter:

“I’ll give the House some examples of my interaction with Irish Water to illustrate what I’m saying. Some time ago I telephoned Irish Water with a simple query. I’m lucky enough to own a second house in Limerick and I have it converted to use as a constituency office.

“I wanted an answer to the simple question as to how that is treated for water tax purposes. Is it in the same category as a holiday home? Is it an unoccupied building? What is it exactly?

“The gentleman who answered said: ‘Well, Deputy, that’s a very interesting question, but I can’t answer it. I’ll have to put you on to Somebody Higher Up.’

“He duly put me on to Somebody Higher Up and the reply I got from the Somebody Higher Up was, ‘Well, Deputy, that is a most interesting question, but we don’t have the answer to it. I’ll have to put you further up again’.

“So I went up and up; I almost finished on the roof. Eventually when I got to the Key Man he told me – guess what – ‘That’s a very interesting question. I don’t have the answer, but give me your mobile phone number and I’ll ring you back within the hour’. That was five weeks ago and I haven’t heard a word from that man since.

“Undeterred by my failure in that regard (because countless constituents have queried why they need to submit their PPS numbers), I contacted Irish Water again with a simple question. Why do people, for example, those who are being assessed and who know what their liability will be, have to submit their PPS numbers? As a matter of fact, why do I, as a citizen, have to submit my PPS number?

“I got straight through to the top on this occasion, I’m glad to say. The gentleman’s first response was shameless blackmail. He said, ‘You go and tell your constituents that if they don’t give their PPS numbers, they won’t get their allowances’. I reminded him that was not the question I asked him at all; I wanted a clear rationale for why people had to submit their PPS numbers.

“He went into an explanation and, to my amazement, I couldn’t understand the language he was speaking. After a while I figured it out; it was a variant of the English language, called incoherent gibberish. I would have been better off if the man had been talking Swahili because then I would know why I didn’t understand what he was saying.

“George Orwell said the function of political language is often ‘to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’. If that is the case, the function of the language of Irish Water is to give the appearance of pure balderdash to – well – pure balderdash.”

The entire chamber – or at least the few who were present – sat back in admiration.

Until Mattie McGrath broke the silence: “Hurricane Willie!”