UK Release Date: 8th January 2018
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: Chris Baugh
Writer: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin
Starring: Nigel O’Neill, Józef Pawlowski, Susan Lynch, Anna Próchniak, Stuart Graham, David Pearse, Ian McElhinney
Synopsis: An Irish farmer turns vigilante in an attempt to track down the thugs who murdered his mother during what appears to be a botched robbery at their home.
A low-budget, gritty tale of violent revenge is the sort of film you’d expect to see coming from the mind of the Coen Brothers or similar American filmmakers. It’s not what you’d expect to be coming out of Northern Ireland. However, Belfast-set Bad Day for the Cut from debut director Chris Baugh is a hard-edged thriller in the Coen mould, complete with gallows humour and frequent horrific violence. At just over 90 minutes, it’s lean, mean and memorably brutal.
It’s a simple story, following farmer Donal (Nigel O’Neill). He lives with his mother and passes his time away at the pub. He turns vigilante, though, when he returns home one evening to find that his mum has been bludgeoned to death by a pair of mystery assailants. The next day, men try to kill Donal, only for Polish immigrant Bartosz (Józef Pawlowski) to join forces with him in order to take down crime boss Frankie Pierce (Susan Lynch), who transpires to have more of a motive for the murder than it initially appeared.
The stripped-down premise and low-budget trappings surrounding Bad Day for the Cut allow it to embrace pure adrenaline over cinematic trickery. It’s a minimalist narrative, following Donal and Bartosz as they travel from hired goon to hired goon as they make their way to the centre of the spider’s web, where Lynch’s somewhat over-egged villain awaits for a final conflict. The structure hides the inexperience of first-time filmmaker Baugh and allows for a string of memorably dark set pieces.
Bad Day for the Cut excels when it comes to its violence. O’Neill’s farmer is forced to use whatever he can get his hands on as a weapon, whether it’s a small hotel room iron or a recently heated saucepan full of beans. Baugh’s stylish direction comes alive when he’s depicting brutality, aided by stunning lensing from cinematographer Ryan Kernaghan. The bittersweet final shot, in particular, is a work of extremely impressive, sombre beauty.
The film is on less solid ground with the mystery box side of its narrative. The central conspiracy surrounding the murder that instigates the action is over-written and considerably more complex than it needs to be. Its storytelling surprises are interesting, but they are always less interesting than O’Neill’s essential struggle with his own drive towards violence. Indeed, the film’s main missing link is a more wide-ranging moral dissection of what its protagonist is doing. The pieces are there for this thread to blossom, but Baugh and Brendan Mullin’s script seems to pull away.
Despite its rough-hewn feel and underwhelming writing, Bad Day for the Cut is a convincingly grim thriller about the desperate lengths to which normal people will go to protect their family. Like Straw Dogs on St Patrick’s Day, this is a journey into the dark heart of Irish cinema, where something sharp, perceptive and outrageously violent seems to dwell.
It’s a disappointing selection, but typical for such a low-budget film. There’s just a trailer and an unwatchably haphazard selection of interviews with the cast and crew.
Pop or Poop?
The impressively nasty Irish thriller Bad Day for the Cut throws its arms around the notion of narrative simplicity, allowing for a grim tale of violence that only occasionally tumbles over the tangled shoelaces of its underlying plot turns.
Nigel O’Neill’s grizzled central performance works well, but it’s the violence and the visual style that lingers in the mind when the credits roll.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Bad Day for the Cut is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Kaleidoscope Entertainment.