Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sundance ’17: Bad Day for the Cut

It is sort of like a Northern Irish western, but instead of looking for the man who shot his pa, Donal is out to kill the chick who had his mum’s head bashed in. It turns out it is part of an IRA feud dating back to the 1970s. Who knew they could hold a grudge so long in those parts? Yet, they most decidedly do in Chris Baugh’s Bad Day for the Cut (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Donal is resigned to be a quiet middle-aged farmer, who lives with his mother and fixes cars on the side, until dear old Florence is murdered in an apparent burglary gone wrong. Shortly thereafter, two thugs try to dispatch Donal in a phony suicide, but the crusty cat is harder to kill than they anticipated. It also helps that Bartosz’s heart really wasn’t in it. His was forced to assist in the hit job by human traffickers holding his sister Kaja. Forging an alliance of convenience that will blossom into trust, Donal and Bartosz follow the chain of gangsters up the ladder to Frankie Pierce, who built a trafficking and prostitution empire out of her father’s old IRA terrorism network.

Baugh and co-screenwriter Brendan Mullin repeatedly emphasize the tragic nature of the unending cycle of revenge-taking. Yet, there sure seems to be a lot of people in Bad Day who need killing. So maybe the real message is you better just finish the job completely, because that last bad guy left alive is ever so likely to come back to haunt you later.

Regardless, Nigel O’Neill is all kinds of awesome as salt-of-the-earth Donal. He broods like a monster, yet still remains believably unassuming. He is the kind of dude who will convince you Nixon was right about riling up the quiet majority. It is definitely a bad idea in Donal’s case. This is not a buddy movie by any stretch, but the co-conspirator chemistry he forges with Józef Pawlowski’s Bartosz evolves in credibly engaging ways.

Bad Day is also blessed with several great villains starting with Susan Lynch, who plays Pierce with wonderfully foul-mouthed Cruella De Vil flamboyance. She is ably assisted by Stuart Graham as her natty right-hand man. Plus, David Pearse (Grabbers, Zonad) gets to do his weaselly thing as Gavigan, Pierce’s first lieutenant unlucky enough to fall into Donal’s hands.

According to Bad Day, revenge is like money and good looks—you can never have too much. Nevertheless, Baugh certainly isn’t mucking around with this hard-nosed morality play. He stages some brutally intense action scenes, often exploiting whatever common household items might be at hand. It is a lean, mean killing machine, but it definitely has a moral center. Highly recommended for fans of payback movies, Bad Day for the Cut screens again today (1/28) in Salt Lake, as part of this year’s Sundance.