Friday 23 October 2020 1:43 pm

Pixie review: Tarantino meets Sligo in charming Irish heist

James is one of City A.M.'s film critics and a regular on both TV and radio discussing the latest movie releases

Certain images can sell a movie almost without context: Jack Nicholson grinning through a hole in a door, or John Travolta and Uma Thurman doing the twist. Pixie may not be as iconic as those movies, but its accompanying show of Alec Baldwin, dressed as a priest and brandishing a firearm is certainly enough to get you interested. 

He is the touch of Hollywood glamour in this Irish heist movie. Olivia Cooke is terrific in the title role as Pixie, a young woman with two goals in life – to get revenge for the death of her mother, and to move to San Francisco to study.

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She finds the answer to both in a heist, stealing drugs worth over €1m from a cartel of corrupt priests, led by Father Hector (Baldwin). Beguiling young men into assisting her, Pixie embarks on a madcap tear across Ireland, with clergy on her tail and dreams on the horizon. 

Strangely written, the film has drawn many comparisons to Tarantino in its reliance on clever dialogue and vivid characterisation. While that influence is there, it’s one of many crime tropes that seem to be crammed in, with much of the comedy derived from the fact that this is all happening in the relatively sleepy Irish setting (“Sorry Mr. Pablo Escobar, welcome to Sligo!” one character declares when Pixie’s lovestruck accomplices try to talk tough). 

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The plot jumps around maniacally, more interested in the journey than getting anywhere in particular. It’s perhaps because the characters are so charming, chiefly Cooke in a terrific lead performance. Subverting the usual Hollywood tropes for a female character, Pixie is out for herself, finding uses for the smitten men in her life and convincing them to break several laws to help her.

Independent, witty, and empathetic, it would be a star-making turn had Cooke not already starred in a string of hits. 

Baldwin is not quite the showstopper he could have been. It is fun to watch such a ludicrous character declaring that “The Lord will have His vengeance!” in his gravelly tones (complete with passable Irish accent). However, you’re always begging for him to take the lunacy up a notch, a prayer that sadly goes unanswered. 

A small, interesting crime movie that might have struggled for oxygen in a busier time for cinemas, Pixie is worth seeking out for the laughs, and for a lead performance that keeps you glued to the screen.