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Film review: Pixie

06 November 2020

Stephen Brown reviews an Irish gangster caper

Alec Baldwin as Father Hector in Pixie

Alec Baldwin as Father Hector in Pixie

REVENGE movies are usually action thrillers also providing a touch of comedy. Pixie (Cert. 15) has a little but not a lot of both. This is mainly achieved by appealing to our sense of the ridiculous. Father Hector (Alec Baldwin) is a gun-toting priest controlling a drugs cartel in the west of Ireland. It all works satisfactorily until a slip of a girl, Pixie (Olivia Cooke), disrupts the business in an attempt to avenge her mother’s death.

After she picks up a couple of scatter-brained lads (Ben Hardy and Daryl McCormack), the young people find themselves in possession of a rotten corpse and methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), which, when they Google it, has an apparent street value of €1 million. There follows an age-old plot: a heist that goes badly wrong. With such booty in their boot, a guns-on-the-run narrative is inevitable.

It’s not just that we’re being told a familiar tale, but that Pixie over-relies on several other films in that genre: Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction among the more obvious. In that film, the hit man Jules Winnfield uses scripture to justify blasting his victims into eternity. His chosen text is Ezekiel 25.17: “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”

It is dodgy theology, but at least Jules believes himself to be God’s righteous man, ridding the world of evil and selfish people. Not so Father Hector, who less convincingly exonerates his own violence with a mangled version of Deuteronomy 32.35: “The Lord will have his vengeance” — spoken as if he has divine permission to destroy any competitors threatening his monopoly on drugs.

Olivia Cooke as Pixie with Daryl McCormack (right) and Ben Hardy in Pixie

The best thing about Pixie is Olivia Cooke. Rarely in these sorts of films is the leading lady more than just a helpmeet for testosterone-fuelled villains. Here she is her own person, free-spirited enough not to be in awe of delinquent clergy. Her moral compass steers a different course from conventional Christian ethics, but there is no doubting her heartfelt commitment to righteousness. Humour sees her through.

While we can relish Pixie’s quick-wittedness, there isn’t really enough to the film to raise it above those that it strives to emulate. Underlying darker elements to the Irish character captured so well, for example, by Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges are absent. Barnaby Thompson, the director of Pixie, is best known for his work on the St Trinian’s movies. He continues to rely on sight gags such as Colm Meaney (playing Pixie’s father) dressed as an armed-to-the-teeth nun: hilarious, but momentary.

Then there are occasional pretensions to being something grander than a comedy caper. Pixie paraded as releasing womankind from its barrage of subservient stereotypes doesn’t really pass muster. By portraying the Roman Catholic Church as the drug-peddlers-in-chief suggests that religion is the opium of the people. This is hardly an original thought, and goes unsubstantiated in this film, which is enjoyable enough if viewed on the level of Father Ted Meets Al Capone.

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