Features Live Action Movies


Director – Barnaby Thompson – 2020 – Ireland – Cert. 15 – 93m


A free-spirited, rule-bending Irishwoman takes on a world of small-time gangsters from the inside – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd

The West of Ireland. Fergus (Fra Fee) and Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne) have received a tip-off about a shipment coming to a country church. Colin has recently split with longtime girlfriend Pixie. Entering the vestry and presumably expecting gangster types, the pair are surprised to find four priests, two who are visiting from Afghanistan “to discover the lessons we’ve learned from dealing with the IRA”. Our two protagonists, suspicious that Catholics don’t exist in Afghanistan, find themselves in a shoot out. After which, they discover the bag containing the drugs shipment.

We’ve not even met the central character yet. Pixie (Olivia Cooke) adores and dotes on her gangster stepfather Dermot O’Brien (Colm Meaney) but hates and distrusts her quick-tempered stepbrother Mike. She heads out to drink tequila in a bar where, coincidentally, Frankie (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack) are picking up pills from Daniel (Chris Walley). Frankie always fancied Pixie and, encouraged by Daniel’s lewd, drugs-fuelled suggestions regarding Pixie’s sexual proclivities, Frankie, with Harland in tow, drives out to Pixie’s remote house at two in the morning. Waiting outside in the car when the vengeful Colin turns up, Harland takes matters into his own hands.

With various people either dead or out to get them, including one in their car boot, Pixie, Frankie and Harlan drive around the country in search of a buyer for the drugs. If Pixie is on top of all this, the two lads are in way over their heads.

Hot on Pixie’s pursuit is seriously nasty and ruthess gangster Seamus (Ned Dennehy) and the three friends will also make the acquaintance of Daniel’s Uncle Raymond (Dylan Moran) and his ageing secretary sidekick MaryLou. Waiting in the wings, and a serious player in the story as it unfolds, is Father Hector McGrath (Alec Baldwin), a highly respected priest who is actually the high level drugs dealer behind the opening church shipment intercepted by Fergus and Colin. The priest is also the nemesis of Dermot O’Brien, the two having fallen out years ago.

Screenwriter (and the director’s son) Preston Thompson is clearly fascinated by human behaviour under extreme pressure. Before we get to the scene in the bar, we’ve had several characters shot, some fatally, and there’s more to come. A big set piece shoot out in a church in the final reel pinches wholesale the style of the legendary one in international crossover Hong Kong thriller The Killer (John Woo, 1989), with characters leaping in slow motion, twin revolvers blazing from both hands. Which is bizarre since there’s no sign of that trademark Woo aesthetic anywhere else in the film, not even in the smaller church shoot out at the beginning.

While the idea of Catholic clergy as gangsters is fairly ludicrous, it works unexpectedly well as a plot device here. Even stranger is an hilarious, one scene exchange between O’Brien and his henchman Tommy (Packy Lee) in which they discuss belief in God alongside various concepts of religion. I’d hesitate to call the film a comedy, but there’s a lot in it that’ll make you laugh out loud.

Director Thompson, originally a director of documentaries in the West of Ireland and for many years a top feature films producer, has assembled an extraordinary, mostly male Irish cast with lots of extraordinary bit parts. Ned Dennehy deserves a special mention for the sheer amount of menace he brings to his role as the man sent after Pixie, while both Meaney and Baldwin are terrific in pivotal roles. The film is however dominated by leading lady Olivia Cooke as the free-spirited, rule-bending Pixie who exudes Irish charm even as she manipulates everyone with who she comes into contact. It turns out she has a highly believable motive, cleverly revealed by the script about two thirds of the way though the proceedings.

It may not make any claims to be deep, but this moves along at a good pace while the level of invention is high throughout. The plot turns come thick and fast, all character driven and consequently believable, even the divertingly silly stuff with the gangster priests. The whole thing is very nicely judged. As a Friday night film to take you out of yourself, it completely fits the bill. And, boy, do we need that at the moment.

Pixie is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, October 23rd.


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