Lights, camera, action: Critics left unimpressed by Brian’s budget debut

IF it had been a cinema, the lights would have dimmed, the low notes of a double-bass would have dominated a foreboding soundtrack and the whispers of an uneasy cast would have been broken only by a blood-curdling scream.

Brian & Brian’s budget blockbuster, the disaster movie of the decade, had all the ingredients for an unforgettable terrorfest. There was cutting and hacking of funds, the clasping of big spenders in rusty chains, deprivation of all hope of early release from suffering and the threat of ultimate disposal from the comfort of civil service jobs.

And there wasn’t even a cigarette to fulfil one last request because with an extra 50 cents on a pack, having a puff constitutes extravagance even beyond that of the major Hollywood studios.

“Today’s performance is a Halloween B movie for Fianna Fáil,” said Labour finance-cum-movie critic, Joan Burton. “This is nightmare on Merrion Street with mood music from the shower scene in Psycho.”

Burton is clearly a fan if not a blood relative of Tim Burton, the film director who gave us The Nightmare Before Christmas, which could serve as an alternative title for what was otherwise being called “The Knife of Brian”.

But Labour’s answer to Barry Norman wasn’t finished. Having exhausted the horror genre, she moved on to scathing social commentary. “What a Bonfire of the Vanities we have witnessed today,” she said, lamenting the swift dispatch to Neverland of some of the grander schemes in Fianna Fáil’s last election manifesto.

Then it was on to the climax of the big chase scene in a gritty cops and robbers drama — without of course, specifying who the robbers were. “This Government has driven the Irish economy into the ditch,” she said. “Today we have the first full viewing of the wreckage and the chance to estimate the cost of the repairs. The wreckage is not a pretty sight and the repair bill will leave the taxpayer gasping.”

Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton tried some cinematics too, although he has clearly watched more late night Open University maths programmes than midnight movie classics.

He conjured up Lawrence of Arabia and that magnificent scene of a heat-muddled vision playing tricks in the burning sands of a vast desert expanse. “The Fianna Fáil economic miracle has turned into a mirage,” he said, as the last vestiges of Ireland’s economic supremacy were stripped away to reveal a pasty-faced country all alone in a financial desert.

At least, it sounded like something out of Lawrence of Arabia. Maybe it was meant to reference Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the Road to Morocco. Bob and Bing were, like Brian and Brian, another great comic duo who set out on the road to fortune and got waylaid by a myriad of mishaps, most of their own making.

Of course, they sang their way out of trouble. But having already heard Brian C’s singing of The Offaly Rover after his elevation to Taoiseach five short recession-free months ago, that might be just another reason for blood-curdling screams.

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