Review by Bears Fonte
I’ve always wondered if ‘luck of the Irish’ was meant sarcastically. Chris Baugh’s BAD DAY FOR THE CUT offers another installment of poor providence as sheep farmer and car mechanic Donal (Nigel O’Neill) comes home from a rare night out at the pub to find his mother brutally murdered. A few days later, some men show up to finish the job on him. But here Donal’s luck changes as the hapless assassins botch the job. He kills one and recruits the other to his cause. Bartosz (Józef Pawłowski) has his own reasons to track down his employers, a recent immigrant, his sister has been kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute. Together they unravel a secret syndicate that somehow connects back to Donal’s elderly mother.
Baugh’s film effortlessly flips from humor to violence as needed on the strength of O’Neill’s performance. Like an Irish BLUE RUIN, the film follows an avenger poorly prepared for his task but with nothing left to lose. Donal seems like a male wallflower, with little to distract him from caring for his mother than fixing up old cars. However, his drive to equalize her death if further fueled by the lingering shadows of a past he never knew she had, decades of hidden revolutionary activity and marital infidelity. Although the details of the past are less important than carrying out the revenge, the mother-son relationship carries the heart of what might be an otherwise soullessly-bloody thriller.
On his own for the first time, Donal develops almost fatherly interactions with Bartosz and his sister and he grows gradually to see more to life than revenge (though he still wants that revenge). The villains are a little cartoony at times but the danger is very real and violence is neither sensationalized nor understated. Baugh builds tension for much of the film, only letting out little bursts to diffuse it momentarily, then gathering the pieces back together to build it higher.
Ireland is a beautiful location to film in, but with the story submerged in the underworld like it is, pastoral landscapes are quickly replaced by urban grit. Cinematographer Ryan Kernaghan captures Donal’s journey into the grime perfectly, reflecting his discovery by oppressing him in the frame, leaving him little room for escape except forward. Long scenes set after midnight add to the noir tone, but the best work is up close and in your face as Donal bludgeons various foes with household implements (irons, pots). I also have to point out the excellent music direction, as Donal’s drives between danger are set to obscure Irish folk pop constantly reminding the viewer that this hero did not sign up this (and also probably that he long ago got too old for this shit).
Co-written by Baugh and producer Brendan Mullin, BAD DAY FOR THE CUT co-stars Susan Lynch, Stuart Graham, Anna Próchniak, and Game of Thrones’ Ian McElhinney. I particularly enjoyed Lynch as the gangster kingpin, a role females so rarely get to play.
BAD DAY FOR THE CUT world premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2017.