The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - Michael Dwyer

BIG NOTH­ING ★ Di­rected by Jean-Baptiste An­drea. Star­ring David Sch­wim­mer, Si­mon Pegg, Alice Eve, Natascha McEl­hone, Jon Polito, Mimi Rogers 15A cert, gen re­lease, 86 min THE mak­ers of Big Noth­ing are tempt­ing fate – and crit­i­cal put-downs – with the ti­tle of their slight, deriva­tive com­e­dythriller, for which Blood Sim­ple Made Sim­ple would fit as an ac­cu­rate al­ter­na­tive. The in­flu­ence of the Coen brothers hangs heav­ily over this self-con­sciously quirky ex­er­cise, but the movie never comes close to em­u­lat­ing its in­flu­ences.

Set in an Ore­gon town, it stars David Sch­wim­mer as Char­lie, an un­em­ployed teacher frus­trated that he hasn’t got a job and can’t get a pub­lisher for his book, while his wife (Natascha McEl­hone) works as a po­lice of­fi­cer. When Char­lie takes a job at the call cen­tre of a tech­nol­ogy com­pany, an op­por­tunis­tic col­league, Gus (Si­mon Pegg) draws him into a scheme to black­mail a lo­cal cler­gy­man whose favourite in­ter­net sites are teenor­ and youn­gand­hung. com. Then Josie (Alice Eve), a for­mer Miss Oklahoma and ex-girl­friend of Gus, gets in­volved and raises the stakes.

As so of­ten tends to hap­pen in mov- ies deal­ing with in­ept char­ac­ters em­bark­ing on a scam, one prob­lem leads to a big­ger one with snow­balling con­se­quences. Big Noth­ing has a big­ger prob­lem, in that its struc­ture has an air of des­per­a­tion about it, feel­ing con­sis­tently con­trived as it plunges the char­ac­ters into a suc­ces­sion of far-fetched, would-be zany sit­u­a­tions.

Even the lo­ca­tions don’t feel con­vinc­ing, since this Ore­gon-set movie was shot in the Isle of Man, Wales and Bri­tish Columbia. The cast­ing of the two leads is just as un­easy, with Sch­wim­mer prov­ing as bland as ever in his postFriends ca­reer. Pegg tries harder, al­though his Amer­i­can ac­cent wa­vers and the movie doesn’t com­pare to his cin­ema break­through, Shaun of the Dead. Mimi Rogers has al­most noth­ing to do, while Jon Polito makes a mildly amus­ing ap­pear­ance as a di­a­betic, over­weight FBI agent.

Big Noth­ing is the sec­ond medi­ocre genre ex­cur­sion from French di­rec­tor Jean-Baptiste An­drea, fol­low­ing his de­but with hor­ror movie Dead End. An­drea col­lab­o­rated on the laboured screen­play with Billy Asher, who dou­bles as a po­lice deputy in this for­get­table film.

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