The luck of the Irish runs out for one unsuspecting priest in John Michael McDonagh’s wicked black comedy that contrives a murder mystery before the heinous crime has been committed.
In a riveting opening sequence worthy of Alfred Hitchcock, Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) is sitting quietly in the confession booth and is stunned when an anonymous male parishioner confides that he was raped by a priest when he was seven years old, and “every other day for five years.”
The priest listens intently as the man calmly reveals that his abuser was never punished and he intends to exact revenge by spilling innocent blood - Father James’s. Thus, he is instructed to put his affairs in order before his date with destiny on the local beach.
With the clock ticking, the holy man searches for glimmers of hope in the eyes of his wayward flock including the scheming laird (Dylan Moran), the butcher (Chris O’Dowd) whose adulterous wife (Orla O’Rourke) is engaged in a violent tryst with a garage mechanic (Isaach De Bankole) and his own daughter (Kelly Reilly).
Everyone has something to hide, it seems, and McDonagh’s richly detailed script suggests that any of the men in town, including the doctor (Aiden Gillen) and an ailing American writer (M Emmet Walsh), might be Father James’s intended killer.
McDonagh delivers an accomplished portrait of an insular world marinading in depravity and regret and Gleeson delivers a towering performance as a vessel of God, who may pay the ultimate price for another man’s sins.