One of the biggest pleasures at last year’s Academy Award ceremony was seeing Sam Rockwell win an Oscar. Depending on who you are, taking home Best Supporting Actor for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” may or may not have been representative of his talents, but it was a well deserved moment in the sun for the actor. At his best, few are better in the industry than Rockwell. He makes unique choices and always seems down to try something new. A statue on his mantle is an objectively good thing. Unfortunately, Rockwell now joins the ranks of seeing some of his post-win projects not nearly being up to snuff. “Blue Iguana” would barely qualify as release-worthy, if not for him. Rockwell does his part, but the movie just can’t cut it. Alas.
“Blue Iguana” seems like a film out of time. It’s one of those movies where the filmmaker thinks they’re making the next “Pulp Fiction.” Overly stylized, self-congratulatory, and incapable of drawing you in, it’s a chore to sit through. Rockwell as a dimwitted criminal is a hard premise to screw up. And yet, here we are. Misguided at almost every turn, it would feel outdated in the late 1990’s. In 2018, it’s nearly unforgivable to witness. The era of trying to rip off Quentin Tarantino had thankfully passed…or so we thought.
Eddie (Rockwell) and Paul (Ben Schwartz) are buddies and ex-cons. They spend their days wasting away at a diner. To say the least, their lives are in neutral. On parole and irritated by everything, it’s not a great existence. Then, out of the blue walks Katherine Rookwood (Phoebe Fox) into the diner. Katherine has a proposition for them. She needs the boys to fly to London to assist in an illicit job. It should be easy, pays well, and gets them out of their rut. And yet, they’re super petty with her. Still, they wind up accepting. Of course, everything goes wrong.
Thrown together in the aftermath of a job gone wrong, Eddie, Paul, and Katherine now need each other. The guys are providing protection of sorts for Katherine. As for her, she’s got the connection with Uncle Martin (Simon Callow), for whom she was working in order to erase a debt. Through it all, there’s much bickering by the main parties. When the film is not gunning for Tarantino territory, there are numerous attempts to do Guy Ritchie-type stuff. None of it works. It’s a mess.
Sam Rockwell is the best part of the movie. He’s given absolutely nothing to do and he looks bored, but his appeal is still clear as day. This happens on occasion with him. For every “Moon” that he puts out, there’s a low level offering like “Mr. Right” or this film in question. He doesn’t phone in the role, but you can tell this isn’t taxing him. The character given to Rockwell is just so substandard, it’s hard to do anything with it. “Blue Iguana” is another forgettable entry on to his resume.
Besides Rockwell in the lead role, there isn’t much to write home about. Phoebe Fox has a few cute moments, but there are also bizarre decisions involving her character. Whether it’s her eating habits or the way she stares at Rockwell’s ass during a fight sequence, the writing and direction actively sabotage her. In a better movie, Fox could have done more. Ben Schwartz is actively forgettable, which is problematic when you’re the second lead. Supporting players besides Simon Callow include Frances Barber, Amanda Donohoe, Al Weaver, and more.
Filmmaker Hadi Hajaig needs to go back to the drawing board. His writing and directing are amateurish, and that’s being kind. In love with the sort of angles and directorial tics that inexperienced directors indulge in, he mixes poor visuals with a script that goes nowhere. If Hajaig either had a better screenplay to work with or someone more talented to film his script, things might have been a bit better. There still would have been problems galore, but doubling down on his work set this one too far back to save. The mess just can’t be cleaned up.
Unless you’re a die hard Rockwell fan, “Blue Iguana” offers up very little. With no budget to work with, no story to tell, and just Rockwell on hand, there wasn’t enough to get this to the finish line. Had the newly minted Oscar winner been given a plum role, more of this would have been forgivable. Instead, he just coasts by on his charm, while everything else fails around him. In the end, the film is a waste of perfectly good Rockwell.