Starring Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Alec Baldwin, Colm Meaney, Pat Shortt.
The Plot: Once upon a time in the west… of Ireland, there lived a young woman intent on starting a new life in San Francisco. Meet Pixie (Olivia Cooke), the step-daughter of rural gangster Dermot (Colm Meaney). After her on-off boyfriend ends up with a bullet in his head after a heist, drugs end up in the hands of her two friends Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack). Spotting a business opportunity, the trio hit the road in an attempt to sell the drugs. However, they’re being pursued by ‘deadly gangster priest’ Hector (Alec Baldwin) who wants his merchandise back. Pixie also has some revelations of her own relating to her late mother…
The Verdict: In popular film culture, a manic pixie dream girl is a pretty, outgoing, wacky female romantic lead whose sole purpose is to help broody male characters lighten up and enjoy their lives. Classic example: Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Writer Preston Thompson plays into that theme with his script for Pixie, which is also directed by his father Barnaby. The Pixie of the title is a young woman still troubled by the mysterious death of her mother. Suspecting foul play, she goes on a soul-searching road trip with some mates to find her own way forward and also help them realise some home truths. At least, that’s what the Thompsons would have us believe in their quirky Sligo-set action comedy. The reality though is that for a film that seems so confident in itself, it ends up shooting blanks.
Pixie is like a sub-Tarantino film from the mid-1990s, the kind that came out in droves in that era but never quite equalled his verbose wit and explosive violence. A lot of the script takes some major leaps of faith in an audience, hoping that they’ll buy into the idea of wildly-accented and nefarious gangster priests, characters that flit in and out like in an old-west saloon and random scenes that don’t join up or add anything to the scrappy proceedings. The western theme is apt here, but it never really convinces. This isn’t a particularly Irish film or a film that even tries to be Irish. It could be set anywhere – the Texan Badlands or the Scottish Highlands, for example. Maybe the Thompsons thought that setting it in Ireland might work better due to the religious angle. It just comes across as clumsy, unsophisticated and tired. Tarantino would chew this one up and spit it out.
The tone of the film is all over the place too, plunging the viewer straight into the action with little attempt at establishing time, place and characters. Why are rural priests now toting guns and dealing drugs? Why is there a bizarre threesome that comes out of nowhere? Why is Alec Baldwin pretending to be James Cagney in a frock? You won’t find the answers here. Despite the best efforts of the sprightly Olivia Cooke, even she can’t save this messy mishmash of genres. There are some laughs here and there amid the gunfire, but not enough for a film that purports to be an action comedy. That extends to workmanlike direction from Barnaby Thompson, whose only other credits are the noughties-era St Trinian’s films. A decade away from the camera hasn’t sharpened his direction skills. Pixie tries hard to please, but it pinballs too wildly around the place to make much sense or be moderately diverting. On the page it might have worked a treat. On screen, this pixie girl is too manic to engage with.