Black comedy turns murder mystery

Calvary starring Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson. Photo: PA Photo/UPI Media
Calvary starring Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson. Photo: PA Photo/UPI Media

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) tends to his flock in a close-knit Sligo community riddled with dark secrets.

Sitting quietly in the confession booth, the holy man is stunned when an anonymous male parishioner confides, “I was raped by a priest when I was seven years old, every other day for five years.”

Father James listens intently as the man calmly reveals that his abuser was never punished and he intends to exact revenge by spilling more blood.

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.

Building on incendiary themes in his 2011 directorial debut The Guard, McDonagh delivers an accomplished portrait of an insular world of depravity and regret.