Sundance 2017 Review: ‘Bad Day for the Cut’ is Sweet Irish Revenge
There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned revenge story. With Bad Day for the Cut, director Chris Baugh sticks to many of the conventions associated with revenge thrillers. Still, the road traveled is highlighted by twists, turns and raw grit that result in an even sweeter tale of revenge.
We open with a middle-aged man named Donal (Nigel O’Neill), who lives on a farm in Ireland with his aging mother. While dutiful to his mother, he still manages to live an ordinary life, fixing cars and conversely regularly at the local pub. One night, his mother is murdered in a home invasion gone wrong. Make no mistake, her unfortunate end is no random act. Though to Donal, the reasoning will shock his world as this cycle of revenge begins.
No longer bound by a quiet life on the farm, Donal is hellbent on hunting down who took out his mother. Reluctantly joining him is a young man named Bartosz (Jozef Pawlowski), who was hired to assault him and failed. But Bartosz is not the villainous type, rather a scared young man caught up in an awful mess. We soon learn that he was blackmailed into attacking Donal in exchange for the safety of his sister. The two make quite the team as a real odd couple. Despite their differences, the bigger picture is much greater than either one of them could have expected.
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As the pair burn through wave after wave of crime syndicate goons, they soon realize the laser focus is on Frankie (Susan Lynch), who orchestrated the entire series of events. Ruthless and commanding, she has no qualms about ordering the murder of Donal’s mother. But what director Baugh does so beautifully is parallels the relationships between parents and children. If one were to die, how would that ultimately affect the other.
While the screenplay by Baugh and Brendan Mullin is fairly solid, the selling point is the way the stockpile of bodies see their demise. Throughout Bad Day for the Cut, the kills are brutal with an undercurrent of humor. Baugh tends to favor household items, particularly the many, many uses of an iron. It’s not all about the flying bullets and straight-up kills here. But on a serious note, Donal is conflicted to kill. While some of the responses are knee-jerking, it doesn’t overshadow the fact that he doesn’t want to do it. Rather, there is that duty to his mother, clinging onto him while she’s six feet under. Nigel O’Neill’s compelling performance is the real heart of the story. Here’s to hoping to see more from him in the coming years.
Bad Day for the Cut has all the opportunities in the world to go overboard with a Tarantino-esque bloodbath of a revenge story. And while that temptation is always lingering in the shadows, it maintains a very down-to-earth approach. At its core, we’re left with a tragedy with a few sparks of light that carries over for several generations. Finely crafted and poetically bloody, Bad Day for the Cut never sleights its focus of how one’s soul can be tormented by age-old tales of deception and vengeance.