The Tiger’s Tail Review

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Dublin property developer Liam O’Leary (Gleeson) gets the shock of his life when his exact double starts to follow him around. The sinister stranger begins posing as Liam both at home and at work, and Liam must struggle to prove his own identity as everyo


Brendan Gleeson doubles up for this morality-tale thriller about a hot-shot businessman who gets a taste of the low life when his doppelgänger enforces a Trading Places-style swap. Enraged to see his old life — and wife — in the clutches of another, Liam must thwart the down-and-out imposter whose predicament is a pointed reminder of Liam’s good fortune and greed. Liam’s first problem is to convince his family that it’s really his double around town, but ironically his eventual success means his second problem — proving his own identity — is much harder. It’s an intriguing set-up.

Unfortunately, every other aspect of the film undermines its appealing concept. The dialogue is stilted and the moral message obvious, particularly in scenes involving Liam’s communist son (Gleeson’s real-life offspring Briain), who lectures his father on the rich-poor divide and talks about Kafka in nightclubs. None of the characters reacts to events in a convincing fashion: Liam appears only mildly disconcerted by disastrous events, and in a particularly horrible scene, his wife Jane (Kim Cattrall) succumbs to an intended rape with delirious enthusiasm. Her apparent inability to spot a phony husband is as unlikely as her secret compliance — this is no Sommersby.

There are bursts of bold, dark humour: as Liam pursues his double through Dublin’s infamous Temple Bar district, revellers vomit, fight and fornicate in an arguable exaggeration of the area’s notoriously indulgent mood. This tactic works less well in the hospital scene: mental patients are all too clearly made-up extras lolling their heads around, while A&E casualties clutch their heads and howl like footballers crying foul.

The soundtrack is almost as melodramatic, and the conclusion unsatisfying. We’re left wanting far more information about the double, even though the basic facts are revealed quite early on, denying us a dramatic reveal.

Supposedly, this is a depiction of an identity crisis — perhaps two — but there’s little time for psychological investigations when the film crashes around as clumsily as its bulky hero. The Tiger’s Tail is rarely a dull watch, but it’s a flawed, tonally conflicted one, painfully mannered and unconvincing.

Any potential in Boorman’s sinister parable is frittered away with awkward dialogue, shallow characters and failed attempts at comedy. A curiosity at best.