Sam Rockwell is worth seeing in anything, no matter how dire the circumstances in which the acting dynamo might find himself trapped. But Blue Iguana makes the freshly minted Oscar winner (for his totally worthy performance in Three Billboards) work way too hard to cut through the film’s blatant stupidity and buffet of clichés. Blue Iguana desperately seeks to be one of those artfully disreputable crime thrillers with a B-movie kick that’s hard to resist (think: Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild and George Armitage’s Miami Blues). I think not. Hadi Hajaig, who wrote, directed, produced and edited this hodgepodge, doesn’t remotely have what it takes to it pull off that kind of feat.
Rockwell plays Eddie, a military-trained ex-con working in a Brooklyn diner with his fellow parolee Paul (Ben Schwartz). While Eddie buries his nose in comic books, the two exchange strained banter about life, their time in the slammer and Paul’s misguided ambitions to be a filmmaker. Enter Katherine Rookwood, a Brit lawyer played by the captivating Phoebe Fox, who also deserves better than the crumbs Hajaig throws her in place of a script.
The gist: Katherine has a job for them in England, something about a mysterious package she doesn’t reveal much about. And suddenly these American fish-out-of-water find themselves in a fine mess involving London’s Natural History Museum, a diamond — the titular “Blue Iguana” — stolen from a princess (Frances Barber), a mobster (Peter Polycarpou) and his mulleted, mother-obsessed stooge (Peter Ferdinando). Will Eddie and Paul get that gem back to the princess? It’s a good bet you won’t give a damn if they do. Every time the script loses it way, which is does constantly, Hajaig lets fly with the ultraviolence. But all the blood-gushing and manic running around can’t disguise the fact that <em>Blue Iguana</em> has no there there. You can feel it wishing it were better, but wishing won’t make it so.
Rockwell does what he can, trying on an absurd Cockney accent, warbling Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” and working up a flirtation with Fox that is crushingly undeveloped. But Hajaig doesn’t trust his actors, thinking it better to cover the senseless action with gratuitous sadism, frenetic editing and a relentless soundtrack of pop hits from the 1970s and 1980s. Rockwell admirers can take comfort from the promising news that he’s signed on for a TV series in which he’ll play Bob Fosse. Blue Iguana remains a package that should never have been delivered.