Blue Iguana review - a candy-coloured crime caper that rings hollow
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Blue Iguana is the type of film that, on paper, seems promising. Drawing its inspiration from candy-coloured comic books and 80s crime comedies, it stars Sam Rockwell and Ben Schwartz as two ex-convicts who are hired to commit a heist in London. The combination of Rockwell and Schwartz alone is enticing, both of them having shone in comedic character roles in the past - and they play their parts well here too. In fact, the ingredients are all there: a rag-tag ensemble, slick action, a cool soundtrack. It's the recipe that needs some work.
Written and directed by Hadi Hajaig, we first meet best buds Eddie (Rockwell) and Paul (Schwartz) at the New York diner they work at. Paul is the loud and emotional one. He carries a tampon with him at all times, insisting it will come in handy to stop the bleeding if either of them is ever shot. Eddie, meanwhile, is the calm and stoic one. He likes to read comics and make witty quips to Paul about things like the tampon quirk. That’s all we’re given about the pair before we’re introduced to Katherine (Phoebe Fox), a timid lawyer for a shady businessman named Arkady (Peter Polycarpou). She’s in debt to Arkady and to set things right she must retrieve some stolen bonds in London. Despite being on parole, Eddie and Paul are hired to pull off the job. This all happens in the first five minutes and it doesn’t get any less convoluted from there.
Given that the film seeks to pay homage to low-budget heist movies where the plot doesn’t matter so much as the characters, it’s fine not to follow the finer details. Things go wrong, they’re forced to regroup and a larger stake comes to light: a priceless diamond from which the film takes its name. It’s a MacGuffin, of course, like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Others want it, including a gruff walking mullet with daddy issues named Deacon (Peter Ferdinando), but the reasons aren’t important. They’re set-up for what the film really wants to be, that is a series of off-the-wall shoot outs and fight sequences. The only problem with these sequences is they take away the supposed humour of it all. Eddie and Paul aren’t high-end professional criminals. They’re bumbling crooks obsessed with fiction and outdated cliches (Katherine has to keep telling Eddie not to call her “princess”). It’s jarring to see so much stylised violence between moments of light irreverence without having taken the time to establish such a tone.
There is an amusing oddball caper in here somewhere, but the script takes so much time trying to find it through other films that it fails to create a real life of its own. The British cast seem more comfortable with things. Fox and Ferdinando in particular have fun balancing the scales between the awkward and maniacal. Flickers of ensemble magic between our rag-tag team also start to glimmer, but are shafted for a budding romance between Eddie and Katherine. It's forced, but there is a playful curiosity between Rockwell and Fox in their scenes together. If more time were given to actually developing the chemistry between them there may have been something real there. But then the credits start to roll and it's already forgotten.
Blue Iguana is available in cinemas and on digital HD from 5th October, and on DVD October 8th