Derailed. Failure To Launch. Reeker. Clearly, 2006 has been a year for films pushing their luck with own-goal titles. Now, taking the biggest risk of all, comes Big Nothing , director Jean- Baptiste Andrea’s follow-up to his promising B-horror debut Dead End . That film owed a debt to David Lynch. This one’s creditors are the Coens and Tarantino. From Joel and Ethan, we get another wintry spin on Fargo ’s small-town-schmuck-in-screwed-up-scam scenario. From QT, Andrea rips one style beat after another, whether it’s a POV shot from an open trunk or Kill Billesque ’toon inserts.
That this comic thriller hangs together, despite being derivative and over-directed, is largely thanks to its interesting cast and a snowballing script, crammed full of incident and throwing up more reversals than a driving test. As bumbling wiseguy Gus, Pegg may not have completely nailed his first American accent, but he compensates with the usual comic smarts, made to feel at home with a series of Spaced grabs (red pill/blue pill Matrix riff and, again, the ’toon inserts). Then there’s Josie, played by Brit thesp Eve – a relative newcomer injecting some fresh-faced sass into the spiralling chaos, as identities switch, accidents multiply and one guest star enters only to exit moments later with an axe in their bonce.
The real star though, and the film’s sympathetic centre, is Schwimmer. Only the churlish – or those far too familiar with Friends to allow the actor to move on – can now accuse him of being one-note. Yes, he’s whiny and bumbling, but there’s a vulnerability and genuine desire to do good for his family that affects. And while having fewer of his randomly spurted ‘factoids’ (titbits about anything and everything) might have made room for Jon Polito’s speccy oddball or lady cop Natascha McElhone, there’s a tragedy lurking behind Charlie that gives this otherwise lightweight film a gravitas among the giggles and gore. An imitation of other indie noirs it may be, but Big Nothing is one film that offers more than its title suggests.
Not quite the wild, curveball-chucking ride it wants to be, but Andrea passes the Difficult Second Film test with this satisfying indie.