Chris Baugh / UK / 2017 / 99 mins
Part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival
Things haven’t quite panned out as simple farmer Donal (Nigel O’Neill) might have planned. Well into his middle age, he finds himself still living with his mother and tinkering with old cars on the family homestead. But when the old dear is brutally murdered by a brace of ruthless thugs, Donal takes the twin barrels of his shotgun on a sauntering revenge mission that’ll expose more of the past than he cares to know about.
This brilliantly-pitched thriller is the debut feature film from writer and director Chris Baugh, who conducts himself with a canny script and even pacing throughout. O’Neill is heartily endearing as the bumbling country bumpkin that the gangsters would’ve done better to give a wide berth, and there are plenty of hilarious moments to break up the gloominess of what could have been a fairly pessimistic picture.
However, the comedy is used sparingly enough and sensibly enough that it never compromises the integrity of the film. Though we might chuckle at Donal’s foibles (such as his disdain for foppery or his bizarre methods of extracting information), we’re most certainly rooting for him to best the baddies in the end. Józef Pawlowski is convincing as his inadvertent and utterly useless sidekick, while Susan Lynch might go a little over-the-top for her character to be truly terrifying as the ruthless mob lynchpin.
However, that could well be the point. None of the characters are intended to be larger than life or exceptionally imposing; rather, they’re simply meant to be credible renditions of real personalities. It’s with exactly this down-to-earth pragmatism that Baugh most successfully hits his mark, and the ambiguity of emotion at the film’s finale means it doesn’t descend into the saccharine territory of a Hollywood flick, either.
Perfectly weighted, expertly directed and hilariously scripted, Bad Day for the Cut is some act for Baugh to follow. Happy enough with that, are ye Baugh? You damn well should be.