Hadi Hajaig defines his style as ‘genre with something else’. In the case of Blue Iguana, that something else is immaturity, sexism and a shed load of unconvincing fake blood. This belongs in that avenue of cinema that considers a splutter of ‘you repulsive testicle’ at the end of a sentence enough to make a joke.
Fresh from his Oscar-winning turn in Three Billboards, Sam Rockwell plays Eddie, an ex-convict on parole and working in a dead-end, hot pink American diner with fellow jailbird Paul (Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz). Could this be any more Tarantino? Yes, as it goes. Whilst Eddie reads comics, Paul fantasises about the pulpy filmmaking career he’s always dreamed of having. Then, up rocks prim – hair bun and glasses – English lawyer Katherine (Phoebe Fox), a femme fatal with an offer they can’t refuse: a trip to London for a heist job.
An illogical opening is never promising for a film’s prospects, particularly one that seeks to emulate the indie 80s films of Demme, Soderbergh, maybe even Jarmusch. Needless to say, this is up to nowhere near their levels, at best resembling a knock-off imitation. Hajaig takes a solid thirty minutes to get to his film’s raison d’etre, by which point its lurid, stereotypical characters have already built an impenetrable wall of disengagement.
Brits get a bizarre kicking all round here – with one unironically using the phrase ‘all tickety boo chaps’ – but worst served is a frumpy Fox. At least the boys don’t suffer the injustice of the character arc that sees Katherine subject herself to the forceful advances of Eddie and change her appearance to be more like the bodacious blonde she catches him ogling in a cafe. Rockwell and Schwartz, meanwhile, are wasted in frankly unlikeable roles. Within the first five minutes, Eddie has referred to Katherine as ‘baby’, ‘darling’ and ‘princess’, while apparently nothing turns a gal on like mindless violence.
If the eighties are Hajaig’s self-proclaimed benchmark, his messy employment of pop culture references from outwit that decade is a painful distraction. Presumably in reference to John Lafia’s 1988 The Blue Iguana, the film’s focus is a plot to steal the titular blue iguana diamond. Tonally, however, Reservoir Dogs seems to be the film’s basis, with nods also to The Godfather and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. A preposterous cocktail with a hearty emphasis on the cock. Other films and directors have mimicked Tarantino and Ritchie with a verve that’s severely lacking here.
A wealth of character talent make sporadic appearances in the, increasingly contrived, story – Simon Callow, Amanda Donohoe and Frances Barber among them – and sometimes even raise a smile. Never nearly enough though.