REVIEW: Pixie (2020)

If you have run out of absurd comedic crime thrillers directed by Guy Ritchie, then British film director Barnaby Thompson has the perfect movie for you. An appealing cast gives Pixie an entertaining polish, but there is no hiding that this Northern Irish comedy of errors – involving double-crosses, accidental murders, and a large bag of drugs – is derivative as all hell.

Pixie (Olivia Cooke) is the daughter of local crime bross Dermot O’Brien (Colm Meaney). When nearly a million pounds’ worth of narcotics are stolen from a rival gang, Pixie joins with unwitting accomplices Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack) to turn a sneaky profit.

Pixie feels like the late-1990s independent comedy that time forgot. It is not simply the way it has been plotted. It is there in the performance styles, the use of popular music, the cinematography, the editing, and the abrupt moments of violence. It is Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Human Traffic, and Shallow Grave shredded up inside a blender, and then mixed liberally with dialogue and characters out of a Martin McDonough screenplay. The rival criminal gangs are framed absurdly, and domestically. Hardy and McCormack play stereotypical laddish young men who pop pills on a Saturday night before fruitlessly trying to pick up the same woman. The title character is written a little tediously, for male ears and a male gaze, and it is a testament to Olivia Cooke’s character that she is watchable at all. As it is Cooke makes her genuinely engaging and funny, but there’s a lot of work being done to get Pixie across the line. One does wonder if her name is a deliberate reference to the much-discussed “magical pixie girl” trope, or if that is just a weird catastrophic accident.

There is strength in the supporting cast: notably Colm Meaney and Alec Baldwin playing rival gangsters, and Ned Dennehy as a laconic hitman-come-fixer on Pixie’s trail. Hardy and McCormack also do their best with underwritten roles. When the film nails a joke, or pulls off a twist or turn, it does so winningly, but in truth those moments don’t come fast or hard enough to shake the sense that you have seen it all before.

What we have here is a film that is enjoyable, but lightly so, and very derivative. It is the kind of feature that will pass 90 minutes nicely, but will constantly remind you of other, and much better films. It will also make you think of better and smarter things it could be doing itself, were it bold enough to simply push harder. Somewhere. Anywhere. If Pixie could just be a little more violent, or a little funnier, or slightly less old-fashioned, there could have really been something here worth recommending. It is still worth a recommendation, but a frustratingly weak one. There are simply better movies doing this kind of thing, and it’s perhaps worth watching the best of those twice rather than watching this one at all.

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