Director: Barnaby Thompson
Writer: Preston Thompson
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Two young friends (Hardy and McCormack) accidentally find themselves involved in a drug heist that has gone very wrong and was planned by Pixie (Cooke) – a girl from their village in West Ireland. Now the three of them find themselves being pursued across Ireland by various gangsters while in possession of a huge bag of drugs and a corpse in their boot.
One of the great things about films is that they provide escapism from the misery of day-to-day life, and of course the films that tend to provide what I would regard as one of the purest forms of escapism is the old classic ‘switch-the-brain-off’ enjoyment of the big budget blockbusters. Well, considering they cost a fair amount of money to make, no studio dare release these in 2020, but there is of course the light hearted low budget comedies that can produce this too, and that is certainly where a film like Pixie fits in. It unashamedly rips off plenty of other films of the ‘black comedy that involves gangsters’ genre (especially Irish ones), and has a very unnecessarily convoluted, contrived and disjointed plot, but it certainly serves its purpose perfectly as 93 minutes of pure cinematic escapism where the brain can indeed be very switched very firmly to ‘off’.
The concept itself has a lot of potential, and there is no denying that all involved could have (and probably should have) done more with it, but it has enough individually amusing moments, spirited performances from its young leads and the occasional sense of genuine danger to be a very entertaining (if highly forgettable) 93 minutes. Even though I would probably have got more out of just watching In Bruges for the hundredth time!
As the film’s titular character, Olivia Cooke is superb and provides a wonderfully charismatic and charming performance. Sadly, the script cannot quite match her performance, and though there are hints at an interesting and profound backstory, these are never quite developed as much as they could have been. The film instead prefers to go for clichés that allow for amusing (if occasionally slightly inexplicable) comedic set pieces. Likewise, Ben ‘Peter Beale’ Hardy and Daryl McCormack deliver good performances as the two youngsters that instantly find themselves out of their depth. Some of the decisions they make are often narrative-convenient and slightly unbelievable, but thanks to the performances and natural chemistry the three of them share they are all very likeable characters worth routing for, even if the script relies more on cliché than giving them wholesome backstories or character arcs. Natives of Sligo will certainly be able to judge this better than myself, but their accents are also seemingly okay, and certainly not just the lazy high pitched ‘oirish’ that some actors often resort to.
The rest of the cast may be walking clichés, but they do a good job. If you are going to make a film that includes Irish gangsters and you cannot afford to get Brendan Gleeson, then the next natural port of call is Colm Meaney, who is predictably competent essentially playing himself. Gun-toting gangster priests is admittedly something a bit more original, and as much as Pixie rightfully focusses on its three young leads, the film could have definitely capitalised more on the comedic and dramatic potential of this concept. Another disappointing factor is Alec Baldwin; other than thinking “oh look; its Alec Baldwin playing an Irish-gangster-priest’ his flat performance and even flatter Irish accent adds nothing to the film other than being a distraction and a name on the poster.
Of course, films of this particular genre have to balance comedy with a genuine sense of danger, which is admittedly a very challenging balance. While Pixie is certainly never edge of the seat stuff, it manages this balance with some amusing moments mixed with flashes of violence (well, guns being fired) that occasionally come as a surprise.
As the plot develops and increasingly relies on contrivances and clichés it is certainly never anything less than watchable and entertaining. There is no denying that it could have done so much more with what it has, and even the final shootout (it is certainly not a spoiler to say there is one!) is a bit of an anti-climax that has a lot of wasted potential, but when watched with the brain switched to ‘off’ Pixie does fill the void of much needed mindless cinematic escapism.
Though it has a plot and script littered with shameless contrivances, clichés and rip-offs, thanks to the spirited leading performances and some individually amusing moments Pixie is certainly not one of the more memorable films of 2020, but in the absence of blockbusters is one that perhaps provides the most much-needed mindless cinematic escapism from the real world.
At time of writing Pixie is currently out in UK cinemas