Pixie MA, 96 minutes, 4 stars
Two unlikely young lads find themselves facing off against half of the Irish underworld thanks to their friendship with a fiery mob boss's daughter in this rollicking and well-written crime caper.
As the film opens we meet Fergus (Fra Fee) and Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne), two lads who find themselves out of their depth when they pull guns on a meeting of Catholic priests in a remote church.
The priests aren't exactly what they seem, and soon Fergus and Colin are on the run with a bag full of drugs flown in from Afghanistan, and with dreams of sharing their spoils with their pal Pixie (Olivia Cooke).
However, Fergus and Colin aren't the two unlikely lads I mentioned in the introduction, and soon the bag of drugs finds itself in the hands of the hapless Frank (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack).
In the town of Sligo in Ireland's northwest, not much happens and Frank and Harland spend their nights at the local club where Frank moons over the occasional appearance of Pixie. Fortunes change for the boys when the bag of drugs finds its way into their possession and they engage Pixie in their plot to find a buyer.
This brings the trio up against a succession of shady characters, including the known dealer Raymond Donnelly (Dylan Moran) who attempts to bump the threesome off and keep the drugs for himself.
Also after the trio is the secret kingpin of the Irish underworld, Father Hector McGrath (Alex Baldwin), as well as Pixie's shady stepfather (Colm Meaney) and stepbrother (Turlough Convery).
This low-budget Irish film packs a real punch. I'd liken it most to the spirit of Quentin Tarantino's earlier films, particularly True Romance. Screenwriter Preston Thompson provides rapid-fire, hilarious and quotable dialogue throughout.
Nothing is sacred in the gags the characters spit at each other. If you think the Catholic Church was a bit hard done by in the past few years, this fantastic, fun and ultra-violent film probably isn't going to be your cup of tea.
Surprises abound throughout, which I found refreshing.
British director Barnaby Thompson has had a fascinating career, learning his trade on some big moments in pop culture, including the two Wayne's World films and having once run Ealing Studios. As a director, he is responsible for the attempted revival of the old-school British St Trinian's films, both awful. He more than makes up for them here.
The three leads are charming, particularly Olivia Cooke and her title character. She has already found big-budget success in Ready Player One and Vanity Fair. One of the characters says of Pixie, "She won't just break you, she'll take a Kalashnikov to your heart" and it is Cooke's charm that gives this character depth and intellect without falling into quirk. Hers is a wonderfully comedic performance and she elevates the performances of her two side-kicks, Hardy and McCormack.
The big-name co-stars in small roles are exciting. Moran, who will forever be Bernard in Black Books to me, is fun to see as a glib drug dealer. Baldwin with a fairly decent Irish accent is one of the greater surprises.
As the film opens, we're presented with the sub-title Once Upon A Time In The West (of Ireland) and this has the elements of a classic Western, despite the beautifully shot Irish vistas.