Big Nothing

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 06/28/07 12:54:44

"It's always something."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Given a barely-there release in the UK and relegated to the direct-to-video treatment Stateside, Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s “Big Nothing” deserves a chance to be seen. It’s one of those one-damn-thing-after-another farces in which the comedy goes for pitch black and the anxiety reaches critical mass.

With Wales and British Columbia standing in for small town Oregon, the film teams David Schwimmer and Simon Pegg as a couple of everymen caught up in an ever-increasing criminal mess. Charlie (Schwimmer) is a struggling writer who reluctantly takes a job at the local customer service call center, a mammoth, soulless place employing most of the town. The gig doesn’t last long, but it’s enough to let him befriend Gus (Pegg), a foul-mouthed slickster of questionable moral value. Gus talks Charlie into helping him with a blackmail scheme, something involving a local reverend and his penchant for illegal porn. Joining the caper is Josie (Alice Eve), the former Miss Teen Oklahoma and possessor of the only real smarts in this outfit.

As you’d expect, everything goes horribly wrong for the trio, and very quickly, the single evening that was supposed to land them thousands in cash winds up a nightmare as they struggle to dispose of multiple corpses, all while making upsetting discoveries about each other. Oh, and by the way: Simon’s wife is a cop (Natascha McElhone) who puts law over love. Oh my.

Director/co-writer Andrea (whose previous effort was the well-received DTV thriller “Dead End”) and co-writer Billy Asher (who also appears on screen as a hapless deputy) keep the farce as tight as possible - at a slim 85 minutes, there’s no room for the movie to wander off into unnecessary territory. The cast and crew show a wonderful knack for screwball pacing, while at the same time, they ensure nothing becomes rushed; Pegg and Schwimmer are masters of restrained rage here, and instead of manic screaming, they underplay the frenzy to pitch-perfect levels.

Such restraint allows for the story to go well over-the-top. Andrea takes comic violence to hilarious lengths, although such lengths wouldn’t be nearly as hilarious if they weren’t handled with great care. When one character is dispatched in a rather gruesome manner, we can giggle because as soon as it happens, Andrea dials down the chaos, letting the violence bounce off the calmness of the moment.

Indeed, a farce of this nature could have spun out of control fifty different ways, as the panic builds and builds and as everyone begins trying to outsmart each other, yet everything is always kept properly in check. “Big Nothing” is a work of dark comic insanity that never gets away from itself. Its cast keeps the lunacy close to the ground, while the filmmakers keep the comedy rolling forward at a feverish pace. The combination allows for large laughs throughout.

Reprinted with kind permission from DVD Talk.

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