Veteran producer (“An Ideal Husband,””Wayne’s World”) and sometime director Barnaby Thompson had to know what he was looking at when his son Preston pitched him his screenplay for “Pixie.”
A murderously dry Irish action dramedy with priests, drugs, scenery and slang and gun battles?
Throw in Brendan Gleeson and you’ve got a movie by Ireland’s Martin (“In Bruges,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) or John Michael McDonagh (“The Guard,””Calvary”).
But there’s no Gleeson and none of the suspense or moral ambiguity and little of the wit and gory gusto of the McDonaghs in this film. Still, it’s got a good enough cast, a couple of twists and enough brute force to it that it’s worth taking in on its own terms.
Those terms being “We’re imitating the McDonagh Brothers, so what?”
Olivia Cooke slings an Irish accent in the title role, that of an aspiring artiste and young woman who knows what she wants, and being tied down to her corner of western Ireland isn’t it.
She is legendary among the lads roughly her age in her corner of the world.
“She won’t just break your heart. She’ll take a Kalashnikov to you!”
But, well, she’s a reddish-haired Irish-accented version of Olivia Cooke. What’s a boy to do?
That’s what lures mates Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack) into her world and its promise of sexual “adventure” and photography.
But Pixie’s got one ex-boyfriend (Rory Fleck Byrne) we’ve already seen murder people. And then there’s her Dad — “STEPdad” (Colm Meaney) — and step-brother Mickey (Turlough Convery), who’re plainly into the gang thing.
Do Pixie’s two new fanboys have any clue what they’re getting into? Once that is, they’ve taken note of the drug deal interrupted by slaughter — in a church, no less — that was the opening scene and left four “priests” dead and put Father McGrath on the tele, warning the TV news audience that “The Lord will have his vengeance!“
As Father McGrath gives us the gimlet-eyed Alec Baldwin squint when he says this — because he’s played by Alec Baldwin — we know he bloody-well means business.
Cooke, of “Sound of Metal” and “Thoroughbreds,” steps out of her comfort zone here, and there’s something a little lacking in her hard, ruthless and determined Child of the Mob character. Pixie is deliberate and calm, even when threatened, toughened up in ways we can only guess. Cooke gives us the cunning without really selling the brutishness.
Yes, Pixie might feel untouchable, being a mob boss’s son. But the dynamics of that family and simple presence of immediate danger don’t register. She’s quick to arrange violent risks for others. Is she capable of it herself?
Still, the situations she gets them all into, the screwy incongruity of it all — Visiting Catholic “priests” from Afghanistan? — give “Pixie” a kick.
As does the dialogue, corrosive banter and threats, every guy she meets kind of going gooey in the mouth trying to talk to Pixie. Her armed-and-dangerous ex-Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne)?
“We ‘re on a BREAK. Just a bit of a wobble!”
A drug dealer greets Pixie and pals as “Harry, Ron and Hermione.”
Pixie defends her stepfather’s sensibilities. “Just because you kill people doesn’t mean you can’t be into Wagner?
It all comes off as watered-down McDonagh Brothers, to get back to our original thesis. But as we’re given a taste of Irish mob torture, as we watch another poor sod digging his own grave at gunpoint in the grey gloom of another remote Irish backroad, as we spy the Irish vanity license plate that spells out “Feckin Eejet,” I’m inclined to shrug off the absurdly convenient and contrived finale and endorse this.
It’s not the McDonaghs, not either one of them or them both together. But it’s a fair enough imitation until they go back to Sligo and stir something fresh up themselves.
MPA Rating: R for violence, language, drug content and some sexual references
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Olivia Byrne, Turlough Convery, Colm Meaney and Alec Baldwin
Credits: Directed by Barnaby Thompson, script by Preston Thompson. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:33