Synopsis – To avenge her mother’s death, Pixie masterminds a heist but must flee across Ireland from gangsters, take on the patriarchy, and choose her own destiny.
My Take – Honestly, I didn’t know too much about the film before heading into it, but just the thought of Alec Baldwin playing a deadly gun slinging priest was convincing enough to sell me into its premise.
Though Alec Baldwin’s role turned out to be more of a cameo really, this gloriously humorous spaghetti mash-up set in Ireland, directed by Barnaby Thompson (St Trinian’s) and written by his son Preston Thompson, is so well-executed that I couldn’t help but be hooked with this love letter to westerns and gangster flicks.
Despite borrowing heavily from the school of Coen Brothers, Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino and Martin McDonagh, this cheeky gangster flick with attitude, is without a bloody delight. While it has a few twists and turns along the way it is nothing spectacular in that sense, yet, the best thing I can possibly say is that it is a joy to watch, something you can easily switch off and enjoy.
Yes, it is not quite on level with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and In Bruges (2008), but it does have a lot going for it, and manages to be charming and funny whilst also having plenty of deaths going on. And as the body count mounts, the titular star of the show, played by Olivia Cooke, bats her eyelids and schemes away.
Set in modern day Ireland, the story follows Pixie O’Brien (Olivia Cooke), a young Irish woman who along with being the daughter of Dermot O’Briena, a dreaded local gangster (Colm Meaney), is also the mastermind behind the drug heist against the rival clan of priest (and nuns) gangsters led by Father Hector McGrath (Alec Baldwin), from whom a duffel bag of 15 kilos of MDMA is stolen.
However, when the bag accidentally ends up in the hands of Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack), two good for nothing best friends who have had an eye on Pixie for a long time, she finds herself teaming up with them on a road trip through the Irish countryside, all in an attempt to try and sell the drugs, acquire their share of the money to start a new life, and avoid the gangsters after them.
At first glance, this may sound a like a lot, because it is. Boasting a dark and violent brand of comedy, the convoluted and ludicrous plot makes its own sort of sense and that complexity is crucial to both the laugh-out-loud humor and energy that bursts off the screen throughout the film. The whole thing is joyously chaotic, riddled with more references to other films than you can shake a stick at and it’s all done in an affectionate way.
The film opens with the title “One upon a time in the west… of Ireland” and thus makes its influences and sense of humor clear from the start. But the film is best appreciated when studied from a distance. The three performers are sufficiently likeable as to make the whole thing more focused on the sparks flying between them than the script defining them.
With the first half hour spent establishing the trio’s characters the film is in no rush to get going. More time is spent introducing the lead characters and setting up the uncomplicated plot rather than cutting to the chase. The second half of the film is certainly stronger than its first, with the church-set shootout providing an exhilarating finale.
You cannot help but like the three main characters of Pixie, Frank and Harland all for different reasons, but it just makes sense to how they work together and become a pretty good unit. They both vie for her affections, in one way or another, and have a clear bond which comes out through their dialogue. Something which works well for the plot and how much you enjoy the film.
A major contributing factor into that is the inclusion of typical elements of Irish humor and a typical McGuffin in the form of a bag of drugs which everyone wants to get their hands on, so you feel you’re very much on familiar ground as far as British comedies go.
Sure, it can be a little reliant on clichés and has some embarrassingly on the nose feminism in the final moments, but the film’s intentions are evidently honorable and, like its heroine, it can be difficult to resist. There’s a sense director Barnaby Thompson wasn’t interested in pushing the boundaries of the genre, rather, he sticks with tried and tested methods and, while you may have seen them all before, if you’re a fan of the genre you won’t leave feeling shortchanged.
Undoubtedly the star of the show is Olivia Cooke and her mesmerizing performance. Here, Cooke brings vast quantities of charisma to her role as a master manipulator of menfolk. She epitomizes that cool girl in every town who wears colorful leather coats, baggy pants and has pretty bows in her hair who looks like she would knock you out with a punch as soon as make your heart soar with a kiss. She is fresh, sassy and oozing class, maintaining a twinkle in her eyes throughout, as the picture demands. Her sense of comic timing is exemplary.
Both Ben Hardy and Daryl McCormack are extremely solid and funny, and share a very believable chemistry. Colm Meaney lends his experience to this film as the fierce and fed up head of the O’Brien crime family. Turlough Convery is great as the intimidating gangster antagonist, spitting his lines at the camera at one point, and newcomer Olivia Byrne is very funny. Chris Walley is good too. Like I mentioned above, Alec Baldwin appears only in a cameo, and he is kind of perfect in the role, bringing a touch of Hollywood to the climax. On the whole, ‘Pixie’ is a fun and entertaining crime caper with a strong ensemble cast.
Directed – Barnaby Thompson
Rated – R
Run Time – 93 minutes