I had always wondered how easy or difficult it would be to make a film in Ireland. You don’t exactly have the clout or backing of Hollywood, Bollywood or even Pinewood Studios. Your backdrops are most likely going to be fields, and your extras will be cows and sheep. On your budget of zero, even Rawhead Rex won’t answer your casting manager’s calls. The typical Irish accent is going to be far too squeaky for camera, and two of our biggest acting exports are Mrs. Brown’s Boys and Fair City, which says it all. Worse than that, Glenroe is the closest we’ve gotten to a look at the gritty realism of rural Ireland.
At least I thought this was the case, until I saw a YouTube clip of Pierce Brosnan screaming “…then maybe you shouldn’t be living heeeeeeeeere!” at his love-interest. The film was Taffin, and this clip managed to do what Adam and Paul never quite managed – it went viral, and people couldn’t believe what they were seeing, or indeed hearing.
Released in 1988, Taffin has become notorious for this particular scene, and before watching it I was hoping that this was merely the signal that kickstarted Brosnan’s descent into madness. I was under the assumption that this immortalised line was only the beginning of his brain turning to mush. This would then hopefully set things up for his final vicious attack on County Wicklow, before imposing a Reign of Terror over the town of Ballymoran. Unfortunately, this is as crazy as he gets.
Brosnan’s character, Taffin, is presented as an enigmatic enforcer. He lives a solitary existence, until he occasionally has to come into Wicklow town to batter some gurrier who hasn’t been paying his debts, or who’s been putting the squeezers on the local céilí house for money. You get a bit of comedy WWE-style fighting throughout the film; people being thrown through tables that collapse as soon as you look at them, punches where the assailants stamp the ground before pulling their fist short by three inches, all that.
The plot is that usual tired one, where some megalomaniac developers swoop in to plonk a chemical plant onto the GAA pitch and confine the local children to a life of drugs and robbing petrol stations & post offices as a result. That’s really it, but of course it’s corrupt from the very top so there’s a whole hierarchy of thugs for Taffin to swing his way through.
Brosnan is invincible, as you might expect, and it seems he’s the only capable man in town. He does get the odd kicking, but he’s alright twenty minutes later. He has to be, because it seems nobody else in the whole county has even the wherewithal to throw a punch at the vicious Dubliners that’ve steamed in to turn Wicklow upside-down.
Hans Zimmer was a surprising name to see on the music composers list, to say the least. Although, of course, a lot of the score is your diddley-eye tin-whistle and fiddle stuff. Not so bad for the establishing shots and to accompany a beautiful view of the country. But when the bodhrán is giving it ninety during the fighting scenes? Leave it out.
Brosnan himself usually tries to hang on to his put-on, refined British accent, but every so often he’ll give it the full Navan treatment. He doesn’t lapse into Meath-speak too often though, presumably for fear of being irreversibly typecast as a swarthy rural type. The last thing he would have wanted would be to confine himself to an acting life of shooting films about battering tinkers in a countryside field.
Also, occasionally there’ll be a line where he gets his two accents confuddled and ends up spitting out the line like he’s chewing a brick. I must wonder if old Piercey was marked absent from Actor’s School on the day they were teaching about conveying angst and anguish; when he exclaims “I can’t change the world we live in,” through gritted teeth, all sense of profoundness is lost when the other actors are there dodging bits of drywall and clay brick flying out of his mouth.
Obviously our man has to get his endaway, in a tantalising preview to his James Bond days. And it’s Alison Doody who gets this gig, in between spending most of the film wandering around in a bewildered trance, trying not to get cowshite on her toenails. She was later to play the sexy Nazi in Indiana Jones, and she represents a better looking Bond girl than any of Brosnan’s conquests except maybe Famke Janssen. God knows what she was doing stuck in this one-horse town, a long way away from any modelling catwalk. But her and Pierce make for a far better power couple than, I don’t know, Seány and Madge in The Riordans or whatever other nonsense RTÉ showed in the 1980s.
The whole picture culminates with a gnarly car chase that features some wild editing. There’s even a bit of gunplay in the final sequence, though it gets let down a bit by the instantly recognisable Dirty Harry .357 magnum gunshot sound ringing. The climactic distance shot between Taffin and the villain is pretty nice though.
Taffin isn’t that bad a film at all, really. It gets muddled, but you can follow along with it. It’s predictable, with some poxy dialogue, and the editing isn’t great. But you can get enjoyment out of it, perhaps through use of a drinking game. You’ll especially enjoy spotting some of Ireland’s other thespians – including two instantly recognisable faces no longer with us, Dermot Morgan and Frank Kelly. And it has to be said, the Ireland displayed in Taffin is almost gone now.
31 May 2019