Fast-talking British crime comedies go way back in cinema’s history. I was raised by a man who thinks 1955’s The Ladykillers is the precise peak of our culture, so this genre has always been near and dear to my heart. Blue Iguana might not give Guy Ritchie a run for his money, but it’s a fun little heist film.
It begins at a New York diner. Eddie and Paul (Sam Rockwell and Ben Schwartz) are two ex-cons trying to make ends meet behind the counter of the greasy spoon. Brit Katherine (Phoebe Fox) walks in one day to offer them a whole lot of money for what must be a deceptively simple task. Her no-nonsense style and casually confrontational manner are a good match for Eddie’s smarmy swagger and Ben’s puppy-like eagerness. Within minutes, the trio are off to the UK to start our plot. Initially, they’re tasked with stealing a backpack off a guy in a museum. Soon after that, all goes to hell when they realize that the story is much bigger than they knew, and it will take much more than just a backpack to get out of this alive.
Like any good British crime caper, the cast of criminals is a big ensemble. Katherine has assembled a group of misfits to work with Eddie and Paul and to support their thievery. The dynamics between the men is a source for most of the humor in Blue Iguana and they all carry it quite well. In fact, these interactions are so funny that we lose sight of what the plot of the film actually is. When it comes down to it, none of them seem especially invested in the ultimate goal of the gang, and it’s hard to stay engaged with the plot when the players themselves are unfocused.
Blue Iguana also suffers from some pretty horrendous clichés. Most notably, the “woman takes off her glasses and is suddenly attractive” trope regarding Katherine. She’s written as an interesting enough character, and her chemistry with Eddie nearly makes this bearable, but it’s still devastatingly lazy writing. I thought filmmakers had moved past this plot mechanism already.
Overall, the major value in Blue Iguana is watching a great comedic ensemble play with their words and toy with one another. When it does that, the movie works well. I just wish it did that more.