You didn’t know you needed to see Alec Baldwin as a pistol packing priest? You’ll realise what you’ve been missing when you see Pixie, Barnaby Thompson’s gloriously anarchic Irish spaghetti western mash-up. Nobody does steely eyed villainy better and in the hands of director Thompson and his screenwriter son Preston, he’s having a ball. He’s not the only one.
We’re on the border, but this time in County Sligo, with a drugs heist that appears to go surprisingly well, but then takes a dramatic turn with the loot ending up in the hands of the wannabe streetwise Frank (Ben Hardy) and naïve but more educated Harlan (Daryl McCormack). They both have their eye on Pixie (Olivia Cooke), which comes with risks because the person looking to reclaim the drugs is her step-father O’Brien (Colm Meaney) – and she has an interest in the contents of that bag as well. It’s all connected to the murder of her mother and she wants revenge on the person behind it.
That’s the simplified version. It’s a convoluted plot – ludicrous at times – but it makes its own sort of sense and that complexity is crucial to both the laugh-out-loud humour and energy that bursts off the screen throughout the film. The whole thing is joyously chaotic, riddled with more references to other films than you can shake a stick at and it’s all done in an affectionate way. With the crackling wit you’d expect of something set in Ireland – tacos will never be the same again! – and some pretty darn good physical gags as well, Pixie is probably best described as Once Upon A Time On Craggy Island. Let’s face it, there was always a criminal undercurrent to Father Ted – “the money was resting in my account” – and this simply brings it to the fore and into the 21st century.
The combination of the young cast led by Cooke (especially good, as ever) and Hardy with the more familiar faces of Meaney, Dylan Moran and, of course, Baldwin, works nicely, even if you can’t escape the feeling that Baldwin jetted in for a couple of days filming and then flew off again. No matter, because he’s perfect in the role, bringing a touch of Hollywood to the climax. And all the slo-mo is just a bonus. Yes, it’s all a bit over the top and, in truth, it probably won’t stand the test of time or be regarded as a classic comedy, but for something to chase away the autumn blues – and all the other blues at the moment – it does the job more than happily.
Released in cinemas, Pixie needs an audience to get the most of its madcap humour. Laughing at a film is never as much fun by yourself and we all need to escape for a couple of hours somewhere along the line. You may not come out of the film remembering much of what you’ve just seen or quoting lines, but its infectious humour may just catch your mood and give you a much-needed lift. Enjoy it.
Comedy, Crime | Cert: 15 | Paramount Pictures | 23 October 2020 | Dir. Barnaby Thompson | Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Colm Meaney, Alec Baldwin.
Watch our interview with Pixie’s director Barnaby Thompson and writer Preston Thompson here.