Big Nothing (15)



Comedy (2006)
85mins UK

Starring: David Schwimmer, Simon Pegg, Alice Eve, Natascha McElhone
Director: Jean-Baptiste Andrea
Writer(s): Jean-Baptiste Andrea, Bill Asher
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Unemployed teacher Charlie Wood is fed up with life and lands a thankless job in a call centre, where he meets affable co-worker Gus Dickinson. Charlie soon loses the job and rails against the world, agreeing to help Gus and a sexy stranger called Josie to pull off an ambitious scam, which will net them all enough money so they need never work again. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans always end in disaster and Charlie is soon knee-deep in trouble.

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Read Sophie Abell's Review

LondonNet Film Review by Nicholas Carter

Big Nothing

Big Nothing's producer Andras Hamori says, "You get about ten of these 'small clever crime stories' each week. Everybody seems to be writing 'small clever crime stories'." There have been hundreds of examples over the years: from Suicide Kings to Raising Arizona to A Simple Plan, the amateur-caper film has become a staple and has received everything from comedic to tragic treatment. Judged against movies like these, Big Nothing just doesn't have enough substance to make it stand out...

Big Nothing Poster. Copyright: Pathe Distribution Big Nothing follows Charlie Wood, an unhappy schoolteacher played by David Schwimmer. It's something of a cliché to always say that Schwimmer acts like Ross from Friends; perhaps this is because Schwimmer simply can't act and so plays himself in every role he takes. That might be overly harsh, but the fact remains that, in this role, Schwimmer keeps the mannerisms and straight-man affect of his most famous character.

By far more compelling is the low-level con man that Ross, I mean Charlie, meets. Gus, played by Simon Pegg with a great American accent, has gained access to an internet company's records. These records include a priest with a penchant for kiddie porn and so the stage is set for a bit of righteous blackmail.

Complicating the whole scheme is Josie (relative unknown Alice Eve), Gus' ex-girlfriend. Josie is by far the craftiest in the gang: when the pair are still planning out the method, she points out that neither of them can make the phone call as the call centre they worked for has their voices on file. A look of consternation passes over Gus' face, while Charlie blankly asks, "Is that true?" "Kinda," Gus replies. By the end, Josie will prove invaluable as a problem-solver even as she shows herself to be one of the most dangerous members of the ever-expanding ring of deceit and murder.

And, like most of these 'small clever crime stories', murder and deceit add up fast. No one in the film is exactly what they seem and all sorts of betrayals pile up at the end of the film. The last hour is convoluted and frantic with reversals and coincidence even though the major twist endings (and there are several) are all telegraphed. Of course, part of the problem here is that all such films have several twists in them, so the audience just knows that Gus is a liar, Josie has something to hide and even Charlie isn't exactly what he seems.

Big Nothing does best when it's trying to stick with black comedy; it fails when it attempts to drum up tension that simply isn't there. Near the end, jarring visual effects and a stunningly poor choice in terms of background music (this is not the right film for a Rammstein song) hamstring the film.

Some of the scenes between Pegg and Schwimmer are excellent; Pegg is in top form playing a two-bit con artist stuck in a rut, while Schwimmer's standard laconic drawl serves as a decent counterpoint in their exchanges. When faced with the overweight FBI investigator nicknamed The Eye, Gus brushes off Charlie's fears with a quick, "Relax, all that guy could find is a buffet."

Big Nothing is a film that can't rightly be called bad, it's simply a nonentity. Such small-time crime movies are a dime a dozen, and Big Nothing just doesn't have enough to differentiate itself from the million others of the same sort. Its drama isn't that compelling and even the comedy, its strong suit, is too uneven and abandoned all too quickly. In the end, Big Nothing is nothing big.

- Nicholas Carter

Click here to watch the trailer

LondonNet Film Review by Sophie Abell

Big Nothing

The lack lustre title of Jean-Baptiste Andrea's black comedy pretty much sums up our response to this unlikely tale of a botched blackmailing scheme in deepest Oregon...

As the serpentine plot unravels, careening from one improbable twist to the next, we fail to forge any emotional connection with the motley crew of misfits, whose lives are touched by poor judgment and outrageous misfortune.

Like Andrea's previous film, the horror-thriller Dead End, Big Nothing contains the kernel of a good idea but the execution behind the camera is lazy. The script, co-written with Bill Asher, spends too little time establishing the characters to generate any empathy when they invariably turn to crime.

Gags are thin on the ground and the film's one comic gem, actor Simon Pegg of Shaun Of The Dead fame, doesn't have a single decent line to call his own. Instead, the focus is unemployed teacher Charlie Wood (David Schwimmer), who is fed up with life and lands a thankless job in a call centre, where he meets affable co-worker Gus Dickinson (Pegg).

Charlie loses the job that very same day and rails against the world, agreeing to help Gus and his sex-bomb on-off girlfriend Josie (Alice Eve) to pull off an ambitious scam, which will net them all enough money so they need never work again. They plan to blackmail a holy man who has been visiting illegal pornography websites. The trio feels certain that the priest will pay USD100,000 to keep his dirty little secret; money which would secure the future of Charlie's three-year-old daughter Emily.

Unfortunately, the best-laid plans always end in disaster and Charlie is soon knee-deep in trouble as he crosses paths with tenacious FBI special agent Hymes (Jon Polito), who boasts an impressive understanding of the forensics of cadavers. To make matters worse (if they could be), Charlie's girlfriend just happens to be local cop Penelope (Natascha McElhone), the woman who will have to put him behind bars when the scam goes awry.

Big Nothing runs to a sprightly 86 minutes but feels considerably longer. Schwimmer's performance is largely reactive, his hapless hero completely at the mercy of the plot, which escalates out of control by the bloody denouement when the screenwriters resort to outlandish coincidence to maintain our wavering interest.

Quickfire banter with Pegg (disappointing, despite a credible American accent) should set the film alight but the two actors just don't spark off one another. Eve seems a pale shadow of herself in the recent rom-com Starter For 10, and Mimi Rogers enjoys a brief cameo that certainly sticks in the mind.

- Sophie Abell

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