Movies & Booze- What flick to pick this week

Esther McCarthy reviews War Dogs and Strange Occurrences in a Small Irish Village

Esther McCarthy gives her take on War Dogs, about two teenage stoners who ended up winning the biggest arms contract during the Bush administration, and Strange Occurrences in a Small Irish Village, about life in Knock.


War Dogs (15A) ***


It’s the mid-noughties, and America is in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, creating a lucrative business in arms dealing. It created an industry for opportunistic traders like Efriam Diveroli (Jonah Hill) and his business partner David Packouz (Miles Teller), who are partying on drugs when they’re not making dodgy deals. Little wonder some critics have nicknamed War Dogs ‘The Gulf of Wall Street’. 

With millions of weapons stored in warehouses throughout Eastern Europe as part of the Cold War’s legacy, and the Pentagon reluctant to be seen to be dealing in such murky territory, sales were often made through third parties, including Diveroli and Packouz. There was even a government website where interested parties could bid to supply various arms and equipment. 

Directed by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips, the movie aims for a sort of preposterous satire about these two men and their hunger for success at any cost  -  Diveroli, in particular, emerges as a monstrous con artist with an enormous appetite for everything and an inability to realise when there’s too much risk involved. It's frequently fun, but the frequent shifts in tone from comedy to drama make for a very uneven film. 
Strange Occurrences in a Small Irish Village (PG) *** 

Using the observational style we saw from Aoife Kelleher in her last film One Million Dubliners, this documentary revisits the reported apparitions of the night in 1879, when a group of locals claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary among others, their accounts passed on through the voices of their relatives. 

The film centres on a number of characters, including Knock Parish Priest, the likeable Fr Richard Gibbons, who is both young enough and savvy enough to realise that the village must evolve if its story is to be relevant in a rapidly changing Ireland. 

He’s noticed that a spate of Church scandals has led to a fall-off in pilgrims  -  though it remains a widely visited area  -  and has plans to reach out to the Irish diaspora in America and beyond. 

While the movie is not comprehensive in covering some periods of Knock’s story  -  it would have been interesting to hear more about Monsignor Horan and the development of Knock Airport  -  Kelleher’s film is at its most powerful when it becomes personal. 

The stories of those who believe they received miracle cures at the shrine, or those who have arrived in the hope of a miracle, can’t fail to move.