'Blue Iguana': Film Review

A tedious mess.
8/24/2018

Sam Rockwell stars in Hadi Hajaig's farcical crime drama about a pair of hapless crooks who get caught up in a scheme to steal a precious gem.

If you wondered why it took so long for Sam Rockwell to finally win an Oscar, it's because he's spent too much of his career making mediocre movies. Case in point: Hadi Hajaig's comic caper film that's all too derivative of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino. Shot two years ago but only now receiving a limited theatrical release, Blue Iguana is a hopelessly muddled, tedious exercise that barely manages an interesting moment despite its plethora of violence and gore. As usual, Rockwell gives it his all, but he's unable to rescue the film from being instantly forgettable.

The title brings up another question. What is it with indie filmmakers and blue iguanas? First came 1988's The Blue Iguana, to which this film owes a stylistic debt, and then there was 2000's strip club drama Dancing at the Blue Iguana. Since neither of those films were remotely successful and this one won't be either, it seems overdue to give the titular phrase a rest.

The title isn't the only thing that feels familiar here. So does the plot, which revolves around ex-cons Eddie (Rockwell) and Paul (Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation), working at a nondescript diner while on parole, and Katherine (Phoebe Fox), an English lawyer who shows up offering to fly them to London to commit a minor heist involving a backpack at the city's Natural History Museum.

The two men take advantage of the surprising job offer, but things go south when someone winds up falling over a balcony to his death. Things get vastly more complicated from there, with the trio deciding to steal a rare gem (no points for guessing what it's called) that's also coveted by several Cockney hoodlums, including a crime boss (Peter Polycarpou) and his chief henchman, a mullet-sporting psycho (Peter Ferdinando) who, to put it mildly, has a strained relationship with his sex-crazed mother (an amusing Amanda Donohoe).

The nearly incomprehensible plot is punctuated by frequent bursts of violence, including the proverbial slow-motion shootout, accompanied by vintage pop tunes presumably intended to add a level of comic irony. The characters are thoroughly one-dimensional, with Eddie primarily defined by his offensive habit of addressing Katherine as "Princess" and vainly attempting a Cockney accent, Paul hitting on the henchman's mom, and Katherine displaying a remarkable appetite for food. In true Hollywood fashion, she also eventually lets down her hair and removes her glasses to signify that she's not nearly demure as we thought. Eddie and Katherine also develop a mutual attraction, first signified by her furtive glance at his posterior while he's fighting one of the bad guys.   

Hajaig wrote, directed, produced and co-edited the film, displaying little talent in any department. Unlike his obvious directorial influences, he fails to blend the comedy and violence satisfactorily, with the latter depicted to such a graphic degree that the results are thoroughly unpleasant.

While he's never fully convincing as a badass fighting machine, Rockwell livens up the proceedings with his ever-watchable low-key charisma, and Fox is charming as the enigmatic barrister who proves that she's just as tough as the men she's hired.

Production company: UK Film Studio Productions
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Ben Schwartz, Phoebe Fox, Peter Ferdindando, Al Weaver, Peter Polycarpou, Simon Callow, Frances Barber, Amanda Donohoe
Director-screenwriter: Hadi Hajaig
Producers: Hadi Hajaig Tom Lassally
Director of photography: Ian Howes
Production designer: Jenny Ray
Editor: Pierre Haberer
Composer: Simon Lambros
Costume designer: Jaja Meschede
Casting: Elaine Grainger

100 minutes