Nov 5, 2009

Shergar is probably haunting some remote part of Ireland.

Shergar
1999

I enjoy movies that romanticize real life events that were in reality needlessly bloody. The true story of Shergar will undoubtedly never be fully known, although it does look like some fairly recent digging into the matter resulted in some gruesome claims.

Basically, in 1981 Shergar became the European Horse of the Year. He won the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, and several other important races before being retired that year. In 1983, he was kidnapped and never seen again. That is pretty much all you can say with 100% certainty about his disappearance, but it is greatly assumed that he was taken and held for ransom by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, or IRA. Apparently they took the horse on the misapprehension that kidnapping a national (Irish) icon would enrage people less than kidnapping your run-of-the-mill wealthy person. Needless to say, after the complete failure that was this ransom attempt, they stuck with snatching people.

There are two running theories on how Shergar was killed: 1) the IRA didn't know what they were doing with a stallion, who possibly went crazy and was subsequently shot hours after being stolen or 2) Shergar was held until it became clear the horse's syndicate had no intention of paying, the IRA had no idea what to do with the stallion, and felt they should kill him as they perceived him to be injured. With machine guns. Yes, with machine guns. The horse's remains have never been found.

Either way you look at it, Shergar died a violent and upsetting death. So, after this enlightening little history lesson, let's look at the movie version.

About a year ago, I decided I had to take a break from books or media that involved the Irish. For those who have followed this blog for some length of time, you know why. For those who haven't, I can't explain myself briefly, so I won't try. Needless to say, there are Irish people in this movie, and I put up with it because this movie was requested and I am happy to put my problems with the Irish aside for a request.

Anyway, the movie is pretty cut and dry up to a point. Shergar is stolen and hidden away in some guy's barn, where he is to stay until the IRA gets their money. (As an aside: apparently the IRA didn't know that Shergar was owned by a syndicate, which amuses me for lots of reasons.) Unknown to the IRA, this guy has a stable worker. I never caught his name, so I will call him Boy. Boy is freakishly obsessed with Shergar. He has yellowed newspaper clippings about the horse on his bedroom wall, which should have been a clue for the guy (I didn't catch his name either, so I will call him The Guy) that keeping a wayward teen in your barn with a stolen racehorse isn't the best of ideas, especially when there are men with guns out there that are willing to kill you for withholding this information.

They proceed to act very, very suspicious. At one point, a police helicopter approaches the farm and everyone runs. Boy freaks and Guy runs into the stable, because this is totally normal, rational behavior! The only one acting normally is the wife (I actually only caught two names in this movie, and neither were hers, so she is the Wife), who curses at the helicopter for scattering her laundry. Damn it all! And then, like complete idiots, the police helicopter away like what they just saw was not at all obviously telling.

Eventually we have another brush with the police, who are out combing Ireland for the horse. This resulted in a British officer having a cow spray manure all over him, which immediately made me annoyed. Poop jokes are never appreciated, especially in dramas. I firmly believe that, as a society, we need to get over feces being funny. Because it is not.

Anyway, the IRA decides that the syndicate is just jerking their chain, so they decide to kill the horse. Except Boy, who dreams of being a jockey and has been having Cindyesque interaction with Shergar for a good forty minutes, decides he's not going to let that happen and runs away with with horse.

Insert dramatic hour long cross country chase! After dyeing Shergar a dark bay color, Boy runs into a tinker (read: Irish Gypsy) and his granddaughter. Joe and Kate. (See, I was paying attention!) We get a moment to kick back and relax, ride horses over the hills, have family moments, and bond. Then Boy rides Joe's mare in a steeplechase, which he wins. Unfortunately for him, the IRA love Irish festivals, and show up with the Guy in tow. Guy tries to warn Boy, but it is too late because the IRA get all besides themselves and tear off after Boy, who rides into the countryside on Shergar.

It rains. Shergar's dye job goes to hell, just in time for the dramatic confrontation between Boy and the IRA. When it comes right down to it, the gunmen fail to shoot the horse. Instead, they hesitate about five times, and Boy jumps Shergar off a cliff. The IRA members decide to be sad about this and walk back to wherever they came from, despite the fact they were all in cars previously.

Ultimately, I was not horribly disappointed in this movie. It had silly moments, it had sentimental crazy moments, it involved the Irish all the time, the Boy rode the horse off a freaking cliff, but mainly I'd say it just failed to entertain me. I mean, I only caught two names. I'd say that's relevant.

1 comment:

RiverHeightsFangirl said...

The boy's name was Kevin.

The movie's name was Pure Rot. It wasn't even enjoyable as a "what the hell were they thinking?" movie, honestly. Knowing what most likely happened to "Sherry", knowing the pathetic Irish stereotypes abounding, I wanted to burn it! I believe Ian Holm is/was a halfway decent actor too. WHY?? So Garda [police] fly LOW over the farm. That's not alarming. Nobody will run away then. And the family panics and runs around into the barn and the police believe them when they say no horses! Gag. And the kid dyes Horsey with human hair dye and buckets of water? Hell. But I loved the part where Shergar and the chestnut mare are sniffling around, um, affectionately, then the shot switches to Kevin watching the girl pull up her skirt to wash her legs in the river. Her grampa tells him to keep his eyes averted. Later, after Kevin gallops Shergar off the river, a Shergar foal appears. I jokingly wondered if there was a cut scene where Kevin died too and the mare had Shergar's foal and the girl had Kevin's illegitimate child. Anyway, thanks for taking my request. So you lived through it. BTW, my paternal grandparents came from Ireland; I'm sure they're having the producers arrested from Heaven.