Bad Day for the Cut

Jun 20, 2017 | Posted by in 2017, EIFF
EIFF

A middle-aged Irish Farmer sets off on a brutal revenge mission after his mother is murdered in Chris Baugh’s Bad Day for the Cut.

Revenge thrillers are fairly common in today’s cinematic landscape. I suspect this is because the stories can be really simple and it’s easy to justify a large amount of brutal action without doing too much work to establish reasons for it taking place.

On the surface this film is textbook in the setup and does nothing to help itself stand out among its peers. It essentially starts with the murder of Donal’s (Nigel O’Neill) mother Florence (Stella McCusker) and progresses to Donal looking for those responsible to make them pay for what they’ve done. Very little time is spent establishing the relationship between Donal and his mother so we have to take it on faith that he’s close enough to his mother to be comfortable killing to avenge her. It’s a failing of the film but doesn’t really get in the way of anything.

Donal is a good enough character mostly due to the performance of Nigel O’Neill who presents Donal as effortlessly likeable. The writing is very thin in terms of his characterisation but there are small flourishes to the dialogue that suggest depth here and there. It definitely feels like he had a life before this film shown through his natural interactions with Eamon (Ian McElhinney).

Bad Day for the CutThe villains of the story are a mixed bag. Susan Lynch is great as the heartless Frankie Pierce but isn’t featured enough to be a truly memorable performance. What she does have is great but her introduction comes far too late and she doesn’t actually do very much when she is on screen. Susan Lynch does a lot with what she’s given but the character is very 2 dimensional. That might have been fine for this film if she had been more clearly established as the central antagonist.

Another villainous character is Trevor (Stuart Graham). He comes across as a missed opportunity as it seems like he will be a big deal when he’s introduced but it quickly becomes clear that he’s very toothless and there’s a complete lack of pay off to his role in the film so I was left wondering why he was in it at all. The rest of the villains are essentially henchmen designed to slow Donal down on his revenge mission and they do a competent enough job for the most part. David Pearse’s Gavigan is the most prominent but he’s ultimately forgettable.

The pacing is really uneven. It feels like it takes Donal a long time to get to the next action sequence which wouldn’t be a problem if there was something to distract the audience in the meantime. The story just isn’t strong enough to hold the interest of the viewer for long while waiting for the action to kick in. There’s another problem of the film having something of a non-ending which makes the experience feel less than satisfying.

With some work the story could have been really interesting. There’s a backstory that the film seems unwilling to fully commit to despite it appearing compelling when we do get a taste of it. The problem is that it appears and disappears without feeling significant which is a shame since it underpins everything Donal does.

The action itself is competently executed for the most part. Donal’s age is played for laughs as it seems unlikeley that he would be so capable in combat. There’s nothing in the story to suggest that he should be and the film plays some of the fights for laughs despite their brutality. Unfortunately most of the action sequences are short but they’re entertaining when we do see them.

Verdict

An uneven experience that comes across as a fairly by the numbers revenge thriller that does nothing to stand out. The setup is familiar and Donal is a compelling enough character thanks largely to the performance of Nigel O’Neill who comes across as very likeable. Susan Lynch does a great job as the central antagonist but her introduction comes very late and she doesn’t have enough to do in order to stand out in the way she should. The story itself has severe pacing issues with very little of note happening between action sequences. It’s a shame as there’s an implied backstory that would actually have been very interesting. The action itself is competently handled and Donal’s age is played for laughs a lot of the time since it’s unclear where he gained the necessary skills to carry out his mission. Unfortunately the action sequences are short but they are entertaining when we do see them.

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