Deadly priests and nuns with guns stalk the beautiful countryside of County Sligo in Barnaby Thompson’s sweet, diverting and bloody black comedy.


Colleen and the boys: Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy and Daryl McCormack


As if the Catholic priesthood didn’t have enough bad press, this bloody black comedy should give it a few more sleepless nights. From an outsize caption announcing Once Upon a Time in the West – of Ireland, the film asserts its Leone-esque/Tarantino-esque influence, before bunking down in the bogs of County Sligo. More accurately, this is Martin and John Michael McDonagh territory and there’s a ripe, self-conscious dark banter, to be sure. But there’s a bright spark in this damp moorland and her name is Olivia Cooke, who takes the title role.


Pixie is no lightweight sprite, but a colleen surrounded by eejits. The Mancunian Ms Cooke has already established her knack for inhabiting different skins, having played a variety of Americans (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Ready Player One), a Cockney murder suspect in The Limehouse Golem and the social climbing Becky Sharp in ITV and Amazon’s Vanity Fair. Here, she has the measure of Preston Thompson's dialogue, dropping cultural references to shame her less well-versed brethren.


Stepdaughter of the local gangster Dermot (Colm Meaney), Pixie Hardy spies a chance of re-igniting her dream of escaping to San Francisco when two love-struck virgins, Frank and Harland, come knocking at her door. Hoping to capitalize on Pixie’s alleged promiscuity, the lads find her a more useful ally when they stumble into “murky waters.” When Harland runs over Pixie’s ex-boyfriend Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne), he finds the corpse in possession of a stash of ecstasy, worth almost €1 million, according to Google. But until Pixie joins their cause, Harland and Frank are ill-equipped to cope with the brutal drug fraternity of the local priesthood and their nuns with guns.


While initially the humour feels a little forced – and the violence a tad perfunctory – the film settles into its stride once we get to know Pixie, Frank and Harland. As the pretty and pretty ingenuous Frank, Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor in Bohemian Rhapsody) makes a loveable foil and, thankfully, doesn’t overplay his gormlessness. He may be a little dim, but he knows his capital cities. And Daryl McCormack is sweetly disarming as Harland. There’s robust support from Meaney as the mobster meekly in thrall to Nigella Lawson and Alec Baldwin as an ice cream-gobbling priest armed with a Glock and Bible. The sharply lit fells of Sligo and a strong soundtrack (The Cramps, Hidden Charms, Lee Hazlewood, Marlena Shaw) further sugar the positives of this entertaining bit of malarkey.




Cast: Olivia Cooke, Ben Hardy, Daryl McCormack, Rory Fleck Byrne, Fra Fee, Chris Walley, Pat Shortt, Frankie McCafferty, Ned Dennehy, Dylan Moran, Sebastian De Souza, Colm Meaney, Alec Baldwin, Olivia Byrne, Eoin Duffy.


Dir Barnaby Thompson, Pro Barnaby Thompson and James Clayton, Screenplay Preston Thompson, Ph John de Borman, Pro Des Nicola Moroney, Ed Robbie Morrison, Music Gerry Diver and David Holmes, Costumes Hazel Webb Crozier, Dialect coaches Nick Trumble and Brendan Gunn.


Fragile Films/Ingenious Media/Northern Ireland Screen-Paramount Pictures.

93 mins. UK. 2020. Rel: 23 October 2020. Cert. 15.