Big Nothing (UK - DVD R2)
Kat Halstead reviews the outcome of this recent Pegg/Schwimmer combo...
A surprisingly low-key release after the breakout British hit and consequent Stateside success of Shaun of the Dead, Big Nothing bears the all trademarks of an enjoyable but slightly lacklustre follow-up. The film enlists an unlikely combination of talents including Simon Pegg ( Spaced, Shaun of the Dead), David Schwimmer ( Friends, various feature flops) and Alice Eve ( Starter for Ten) in an oddball comedy thriller that pulsates with early Coen brothers energy and style.
David Schwimmer plays Charlie Wood, an unemployed teacher whose dream of becoming a novelist is starting to take its toll on family life. He relies on the income from his police lady wife to keep them housed, fed and in second-hand goods for their young daughter. Finally Charlie’s hunting and gathering instincts kick in and he resigns himself to a mind-numbing job at a computer call-centre.
Here he meets Gus Dickinson (Simon Pegg), a loveable rogue and conman who immediately introduces him to his own sarcastic and disinterested system of coping with the mundane nature of the job. However, Charlie, being less office-savvy, manages to get himself fired on the first day and ends up in the pub with Gus drowning his sorrows and proclaiming his inevitable permanence on the breadline.
Depression, despair, drink and, of course, an action plan. Gus entices Charlie into his get-rich-quick scheme based on a list of people who have logged onto illegal porn sites or, as he refers to it innocently, his ‘completely non-violent enterprise’. Focussing the crime on someone who would most fear damage to their reputation, a priest, Gus elaborates on his master plan to blackmail the priest out of thousands of dollars. Enter the third wheel in the unlikely threesome, Josie (Alice Eve), an ex-partner of Gus’ who overhears the end of the conversation and takes charge of the scam’s execution.
Soon Charlie, an average, mundane guy with a mildly annoying habit of repeating random facts (supposedly to prevent his memory from fading), finds himself at the centre of a crime wave as everything with the potential to go wrong does and the motley three find themselves amidst a spider’s web of mistaken identity, accidental murders, snuff movies, paedophile priests and giant gnomes in a targeted offence of twists and turns that leave the viewer awe-struck.
As we’ve come to expect from Pegg the film is riddled with allusions to popular culture including direct references to The Matrix’s red pill/blue pill (although this time Pegg offers Schwimmer a choice of sweets). What at first seems like an unlikely Brit/US pairing turns out to be a successful mixture of farcical, deadpan and physical/slapstick humour and although the film is rarely laugh-out-loud funny it is entertaining enough to keep the viewer hooked. A largely British-based production, Pegg and Eve pull off effortless American accents and the location shooting in Wales and the Isle of Man is impressively coerced into a vaguely Noir style setting.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is acceptable for a recent film, with very few problems. Most of the film’s action is set at night, and some of the badly lit scenes suffer from background blurring. However the night time palettes are consistently strong with bright colours creeping out of the darkness, in comparison to the more muted tones of the daylight scenes, which are there to represent the dreary humdrum of everyday life. For the most part the transfer does Oscar-nominated Richard Greatrex’s lush cinematography proud.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is without fault. The dialogue is clear and balanced well with the (basic) sound effects and music. The soundtrack itself is full of great tunes—very much the light-hearted, comic action-related songs you would expect from this kind of film.
The disc has some very watchable extras if you bypass ‘The Truth About Simon Pegg’—a really short, incredibly dull and seemingly pointless little excursion narrated by Schwimmer where he asks a few randoms around the set mundane questions about Pegg. Then Pegg moans about the remastering of Star Wars for the hundredth time…Luckily our trusty Brit comedian saves the day with the Pegg-Cam Diary, a hilarious insight into his strange but genius mind filled with random ramblings and ponderings, which seem to pop out without fore or afterthought. The standard ‘Making of’ featurette gets off to a dangerously shaky start, but the viewer is soon engulfed in the fun of the relaxed on-set atmosphere, complete with in-jokes; ‘Simon went fishing on his day off and didn't catch a single fish’, a stigma that seems to stay with Pegg for the entirety of the film. It's unusual for a photo gallery to be anything other than mundane, and this one is run of the mill at best. Pegg fans might have hoped for something a little more imaginative than framing the images in dollar bills. By far the best extra is the feature commentary with Pegg, Eve and director Jean-Baptiste Andrea. It's an entertaining and energetic track, worth listening to for the playful banter between Pegg and Eve alone.
A fairly big swerve from director Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s first feature film, Dead End, Big Nothing is a heist-style comedy thriller that just slightly under-reaches expectations. The various film references, unusual use of three-way split screens and fantastic on-screen chemistry between Pegg, Schwimmer and Eve make up for the majority of damage done by the tiresomely convoluted plot, and the fact that the film speeds in at under an hour and a half means the lengthiness of some of the 'bridging scenes' can be forgiven.
Essentially any fan of Pegg or Schwimmer will be thoroughly entertained, but Big Nothing does fall predictably short of the charisma and originality of Shaun of the Dead.
Review by Kat Halstead
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 16th April 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Feature Commentary, The Truth About Simon Pegg, Pegg-Cam Diary, Making-Of, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jean-Baptiste Andrea
Cast: Simon Pegg, David Schwimmer, Alice Eve
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Film-Noir and Thriller
Length: 0 minutes
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