Producers: James Clayton and Barnaby Thompson Director: Barnaby Thompson Screenplay: Preston Thompson Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Colm Meany, Alec Baldwin, Ned Dennehy, Turlough Convery, Rory Fleck Byrne, Fra Fee, Dylan Moran, Chris Walley, Pat Shortt, Frankie McCafferty, Sebastian de Souza and Olivia Byrne Distributor: Saban Films
It’s a tossup whether “Pixie,” directed by Barnaby Thompson from a script by his son Preston, is more indebted to the darkly comic Irish vision of Martin and John Michael McDonagh or the testosterone-filled, Tarantino-inspired British gangland movies of Guy Ritchie and his emulators, but in either case it’s a rather wan take on formulas better handled elsewhere. And it fails to successfully negotiate the jarring shifts of tone, the hoped-for humor never meshing smoothly with the abundant violence.
Pixie O’Brien (Olivia Cooke) is a perky but coolly manipulative young woman, the stepdaughter of gangster gang leader Dermot (Colm Meany). Angry over the death of her mother, she aims to get the money she needs to flee to San Francisco, and to do that has used her wiles to con a couple of young men, Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne) and Fergus (Fra Fee), to robbing a gang of drug-dealing priests, led by Father McGrath (Alec Baldwin).
When that plan goes awry—Colin and Fergus do the heist, absconding with a bag of drugs while leaving a bunch of bodies in their wake, but then have a falling-out—Pixie latches on to would-be savior Frank McCullen (Ben Hardy) and his chum Harland (Daryl McCormack). They’ve acquired the bag of stolen drugs and hope to sell them, and Pixie offers to help, suggesting they can then use the cash to go to California together.
Mayhem and abrupt turns of fortune multiply as the new trio try to arrange deals with mid-level drug suppliers and additional characters—like Pixie’s nasty half-brother (Turlough Convery) and a smirking assassin (Ned Dennehy)—are introduced, while Baldwin chews the scenery (and fumbles his accent) as the indignant cleric. A climax occurs back in church, where a shoot-out occurs between McGrath’s priests (and nuns) and Dermot’s gang—the big action finale that père Thompson and his cinematographer John de Borman fail to choreograph with much panache; they and editor Robbie Morrison then exacerbate the problem by choosing to go into slow-motion for substantial stretches, further enfeebling the effect.
On the other hand, there’s some compensation in Cooke’s energetic performance as the gamin-like femme fatale, and veteran Meany gets considerable mileage out of a jokily character-establishing sideline about Dermot’s interest in gourmet cooking. On the other hand, Hardy and McCormack are simply too bland to hold much interest, and most of the rest of the supporting cast are encouraged to play to the rafters, with diminishing returns. On the other hand, the locations, thanks to de Borman’s helming, Nicola Moroney’s production design and Francis Taaffe’s art direction—are nicely used, while the score by David Holmes and Gerry Diver is at least inoffensive.
Despite a few good moments, “Pixie” is neither as clever as it thinks nor as engaging as it should be. Its effort to mimic better models may flatter them, but mostly fails to amuse.