Jean-Baptiste Andrea | 82 mins | TV | 15 / R
Big Nothing was co-funded by the Isle of Man and Welsh film boards; it’s therefore unsurprising that it was filmed in those locations; and there’s a bunch of British actors in it… but they’re all playing Yanks and it’s set in Oregon.
And it’s as schizophrenic as this would suggest. Across its running time — and mostly in the opening half-hour — Big Nothing jumps wildly from mundane comedy to confidence scam thriller to black comedy to geeky spoof. Early on there’s a nice bit referencing The Matrix, for example; a brief moment which feels like it belongs in another film — as do many others. This flitting around makes for a showy opening, Andrea’s direction screaming “look what I can do!” in a way few films have since Guy Ritchie showed off everything he could do in Lock, Stock. It might help Andrea’s showreel, but the downside for viewers is it makes for taxing viewing and a sense that the film lacks its own identity. In short, it’s trying far too hard.
It does settle down however, improving immensely once it gets on with telling its (still loopy) story and stops trying to impress with flashy tricks. It becomes a lot funnier and a lot more enjoyable, slowly fulfilling any hopes the viewer may’ve had.
But it can’t keep it up, despite the brief running time. A long time before the credits roll it degenerates into a grab-bag of random incidents and twists strung together until the made-up-as-it-goes-along script hits something approaching a produceable page count. On the one hand this randomness at least makes it feel different, but on the other it pushes it too far — the array of twists don’t feel like natural occurrences, just plot points that are completely unforeseeable due to being equally nonsensical.
For a good stretch in the middle Big Nothing does more or less what you want it to, leaving the showy opening and desperate series of endings as unfortunate asides to a watchable film struggling to reach feature length.