To call it the story of a heist gone wrong is a grievous understatement. This is a plot in which next to nothing goes right. But the film itself is a different matter. Set in Northern Ireland, it’s a black but restorative farce in the tradition of John Michael McDonagh’s equally loquacious thriller The Guard which had a comparable line in gallows humour. Bonus features include Alex Baldwin as a trigger-happy priest and a shoot-out in a church involving a couple of gun-toting nuns.
The director, Barney Thompson, is Irish but his long career as a producer and director included a stint in the US working with Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels, followed by 14 years reviving London’s Ealing Studios. He’s also co-directed a couple of St. Trinian’s films but they don’t come near the creative chaos that he achieves here.
The screenplay, written by his son Preston, is based on the domino effect. One disastrous move precipitates another and in the centre of it all is Pixie (Olivia Cooke), the young and beautiful stepdaughter of an affable Sligo gangster (Colm Meaney). She’s blessed with a quick wit and a well-founded confidence in her own charms, which turn out to be very useful. As one wary young man remarks to a hopeful friend, “she won’t just break you. She’ll take a Kalashnikov to your heart.“
Pixie’s dearest wish is to come by enough money to escape Sligo for San Francisco, where she wants to pursue her ambitions as a photographer. Thanks to her family connections she learns of a sizeable drug deal being conducted by Alec Baldwin and his gangster priests. After a series of missteps, most of them lethal, the drugs fall into the hands of her friends Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack), like-minded amateurs excited and appalled by the seriousness of the complications they’ve brought into their lives. Pixie goes on the run with them as fatalities multiply while they try to exchange the drugs for cash.
The cast is a joy. Meaney and Baldwin relish the rhythms and eloquence of the dialogue. World-weary Dylan Moran (Black Books) contributes a memorable cameo as a drug dealer and Hardy and McCormack work up an engaging double act. But it’s Cooke who sets the pace. She played Becky Sharp in the recent TV version of Vanity Fair but her Pixie, clever, funny and bent on making mischief, is an even more artful piece of work.