Pixie review: Gangster priests feature in 'Once upon a time in the west of Ireland'

Alec Baldwin as Fr Hector McGrath in Pixie

DIRECTOR Barnaby Thompson and screenwriter son Preston plot a blood-soaked road trip along the ruggedly picturesque west coast of Ireland in their blackly humorous crime caper Pixie.

Drawing inspiration from a drive from Sligo to Clonakilty, the film-making duo conceive a modern-day western that pits a wise-cracking heroine and two hapless accomplices against a small army of “deadly gangster priests”.

An ensemble cast of gifted comic talent including Alec Baldwin, Dylan Moran and Pat Shortt relish choice one-liners as a freewheeling narrative slaloms inexorably towards a showdown in an abandoned church that nods discreetly to Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.

Olivia Cooke is a delightful fit for the titular troublemaker, who exploits the supposed weakness of her sex to gain the upper hand against anyone who stands in her way, including her own family.

Diction is occasionally smothered by the musicality of her Irish accent but there's an irresistible effervescence to her scheming minx, who is determined to seize life by the short and curlies.

“These sort of adventures are always more enjoyable with a positive attitude,” she trills after one particularly grisly interlude – a veiled instruction to us to gleefully embrace the escalating madness.

Once upon a time in the west of Ireland, Pixie (Cooke) plans to avenge her mother's death by masterminding a heist with smitten boyfriend Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne) and his pal Fergus (Fra Fee).

The two men don animal masks and interrupt a drug deal in a church overseen by Fr Daly (Shortt) and Fr McGinley (Frankie McCafferty).

Bullets fly and copious blood is shed, ruining Pixie's plan to escape Sligo, where her gangster stepfather Dermot O'Brien (Colm Meaney) is embroiled in a bitter turf war with Fr Hector McGrath (Baldwin) and his gun-toting posse of corrupt clergy.

The stolen narcotics, with a street value of just under one million euros, tumble into the possession of nice guys Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack).

They give Pixie a second chance to start afresh in San Francisco by accompanying her to Dingle, where they hope to sell the MDMA to Raymond Donnelly (Moran).

Frank and Harland ignore dire warnings about Pixie – “She won't just break you, she'll take a Kalashnikov to your heart” – and fall under their travelling companion's spell as they zigzag across the untamed Irish countryside.

Pixie is an entertaining and sporadically hilarious escapade, punctuated by splashes of violence and a memorable sex scene that proves the title character won't be tamed by any man.

Hardy and McCormack are endearing foils to Cooke's comic whirlwind, whose only binding allegiance is to herself.

PIXIE (15, 93 mins) Comedy/Romance/Thriller. Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Colm Meaney, Alec Baldwin, Dylan Moran, Rory Fleck Byrne, Fra Fee, Pat Shortt, Frankie McCafferty. Director: Barnaby Thompson.

RATING: 6/10

Released: October 23 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

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