Big Nothing (2006)

What can be better than a British comedy? One that combines British humor with American film techniques, that's what. And that's precisely what I had the pleasure to see two times this week (yes, both were this movie).

Charlie is fed up with the second-rate life he provides for his daughter and wife. Thus, he decides to get a job at the local call center but is fired on the first day after imitating a fellow employee (Gus) who talks rudely to customers. Gus feels guilty and suggests they team up and start their own "business": blackmailing people who visit pornography websites. Unfortunately, a troublesome old acquaintance of Gus' (Julie) overhears their talk and wants in as well. But what can they do when even the first job goes terribly wrong?

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I think we're in trouble.

The Good
OK, I admit it. The main reason I wanted to watch this is because Simon Pegg is in it. Honestly, if you've seen him in either Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead (which I'm planning to review as well), you know he's a great actor. He's hilarious without even trying to be. Anyway, sparkle-ridden eyes aside, he was good in this movie as well, as he carried most of its weight on his shoulders. Out of the three main characters, I'd say his was the most complex and difficult to portray, and he pulled it off successfully.

The characters are an important part; they make this movie what it is - a good one. We have Charlie, a depressed ex-teacher turned writer who is frustrated about his current life; Gus, his short-term workmate who indirectly gets him fired and drags him into his conning schemes; and Julie, a quirky young waitress full of get-rich-quick plans. Of course, they're all thrown together and hilarity ensues when each discovers the other two are not really who they say they are. This also applies for other characters as well, namely a few of the secondary ones. These are played well, but aren't too insisted upon and thus become somewhat one-dimensional (such as Charlie's daughter, who is the stereotypical sweet kid). An exception is Penelope, Charlie's wife, who shows a dramatic shift near the end.

One thing I've noticed in lots of movies is that if one starts out as part of a particular genre (for example action), it will end on the same note. Big Nothing, however, decided to ignore that. The situations in the beginning are comedic, but rapidly turn into action and then drama, towards the end. I was surprised at how dark the movie became after the first half, and that the more ridiculous and goofy elements (such as the priest the three try to blackmail first) were left aside in favour of a more realistic approach.

There's not a lot of violence here, aside from an over-the-top situation involving an axe, a scene with a fair amount of blood and some shootings (no blood involved though). It's quite tame compared to most action movies out there, actually, and I'd say you're safe if you're not a fan of violence. There's also a sex scene but nothing "important" is actually shown on-screen.

And as for the music, I was pleased to hear such a wide range of songs, from slow ones to Rammstein (Engel is always a pleasure to hear, despite the fact that directors have only heard about it and Du Hast - these are the only two I've heard so far in movies).

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Julie wants in on the action as well.

The Bad
I wouldn't say there's anything truly bad about it, maybe the requirement of a fairly high suspension of disbelief. This is more evident towards the end, during the cat-and-mouse games between the three conmen and other characters; truth be told, there is some of that "old comedy" feel that I got from the Home Alone movies, but not enough for this to become slapstick or jump the shark.

The Plain WTF
There's not too much WTF here if you suspend your disbelief a bit. Sure, some situations aren't likely to happen anytime soon, but these are in the vein of those old comedies I was talking about earlier and aren't too distracting. If anything, they contribute to the overall humor.

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Not everything goes according to plan.

The Quotes
Charlie: Did you check her pulse?
Julie: Well I assumed that when you have an axe lodged in your skull, your pulse tends to bottom out on you.

Yeah, we're pretty much screwed.

Verdict and recommendations
It was a fun view and I'd recommend it to those wanting to see a movie different from most out there. It doesn't hesitate to shift your opinions about characters at random times, so you may find yourself not knowing who to root for in the end. Everyone has their good and bad points, which contributes to the realism: no one is only good or bad, the characters are complex and the plot, while not very believable, is solid enough to make for a decent movie.

Originality + creativity: 1 point
Actors: 1.5 points
Soundtrack: 1.5 points
Special effects/Natural flow: 1 point
How much I enjoyed it: 2 points

My rating: External Image (7 out of 10)
Big Nothing (2006) on