13th Oct2018

‘Blue Iguana’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sam Rockwell, Ben Schwartz, Phoebe Fox, Peter Ferdinando, Peter Polycarpou, Simon Callow, Frances Barber, Amanda Donohoe, Al Weaver, Glenn Wrage, Robin Hellier, Pedro Lloyd Gardiner, Andre Flynn, Perry Jaques, Anton Saunders, Vic Waghorn, Paul Chan, Martin Muncaster, Jack Silver, Tom Tunney | Written and Directed by Hadi Hajaig

Blue-Iguana-poster

Opening a crime film, an indie crime film for that matter, in a diner only screams to remind audiences of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, setting a high bar for the film to come. Which, frankly, means your film better live up to that expectation… Thankfully Blue Iguana does.

Blue Iguana, a British-American crime film, tells the story of ex-jailbirds, Eddie (Sam Rockwell) and Paul (Ben Schwartz), who are on parole, working in a New York diner… Eddie is calm and confident, whereas, Paul is loud-mouthed and impulsive. They’re a team, but their lives are at a dead-end. That is, until English lawyer Katherine Rookwood (Phoebe Fox) walks into their diner with an offer of a lifetime. Her plan: to take them to London in pursuit of a valuable gem called the Blue Iguana. Only one man stands in their way of the fabulous piece: the psychotic small-time crime boss Deacon Bradshaw (Peter Ferdinando).

Over the past few years there have been some great indie-comedy heist movies: films like Flypaper, How to Rob a Bank and The Maiden Heist – all of which I’d easlily consider my favourites of the genre (Flypaper would even make my all-time favourite films list too). And what do they have in common? Well they all successfully balance quirky, offbeat comedy with traditional “heist-film” storytelling. They also all feature a cool and charismatic cast. And writer/director Hadi Hajaig’s Blue Iguana very much follows suit.

It’s the cast that really makes this particular tale REALLY work. Yes, the films script and the twists, turns and superior plotting within, are a large part of why Blue Iguana measures up to expectation; but it’s the cast that truly bring Hajaig’s script to life. Ben Schwartz’s manic portrayal of Paul is the perfect foil for Rockwell’s more laid-back approach to his performance. But that’s not a knock on Rockwell – so skilled is he that he makes this kind of role look easy. He did it when playing a hitman in Mr. Right (a personal favourite Rockwell movie), and he does it here playing a thief. The British cast are uniformally superb too – with Peter Ferdinando stealing the movie as the frustrated wannabe crime boss Deacon, who quite literally has the best lines of the movie… All the time! Though it’s Phoebe Fox who’s the true standout, somehow managing to underplay her characters intelligence, attractiveness and charm – whilst at the same time exuding intelligence, attractiveness and charm! If Blue Iguana had reached a wider audience than a limited cinematic run before being dumped to DVD and VOD (something this film does NOT deserve!) it would be a role that many would call a career-making performance. It’s really that good.

Very much like the aforementioned Flypaper, Blue Iguana is not just about the heist, there’s actually a love story intertwined within its plot too. A love story between Rockwell’s Eddie and lawyer Katherine (Fox) which subtly unwinds throughout the length of the movie, feeling much more like an organic development of the characters rather than something forced upon them by the script. That’s once again down to the actors, with Rockwell and Fox having a chemistry together that is

Much like the films of Tarantino, which were obviously part of the inspiration for this film – as it was a myriad of independently-made crime films before it -Blue Iguana also has a real pop art sensibility, with a soundtrack to match: it’s filled with ’80s New Wave tracks by the likes of the B-52’s, Violent Femmes and Only Ones – songs like Private Idaho, Another Girl Another Planet and Pop Muzik; all of which help contribute to the overall quirky tone of the film. Though the choice of Tom Jones’ Did Trouble Me for the films big shootout is as sublime a selection as anything Tarantino used during his early 90s oeuvre.

A darkly-comic, low-key heist thriller, Blue Iguana is a must-see for fans of the genre and Rockwell alike. Definitely track this one down ASAP.

****½  4.5/5

Blue Iguana is available on digital HD and on DVD now, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

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