Fresh off the back of the inexplicably popular arse-fest Game of Thrones, Aiden Gillen returns to his gritty British roots with occasional collaborator Jamie Thraves. The two have previous, working together in 2000 and a decade later with The Low Down and Treacle Jr respectively. During this time Gillen has been gradually increasing his impressive portfolio with Queer as Folk and The Wire before his breakthrough in the aforementioned festival of arse.
What is presumably touted as a brave, gritty concept piece, we join Aiden as a jobbing actor, strangling and raping his way through a variety of murderous roles; the audience’s paradoxical homework pertaining to whether these acts are part of a script or something more sinister. Regrettably, when the answers are eventually (partially) revealed, the wizard’s curtain is brushed aside to reveal that the Oz, the Great and Terrible has got rather bored and buggered off to the nearest Yellow Brick themed hostelry.
It feels like Gillen has phoned in his performance and stays well within his comfort zone, although the script gives him nothing to work with. Each scene seems to live in its own micro-universe as each event fusses around a specific distinct outline, seemingly unaware of any narrative world around it. Aiden commits an on-screen murder, he meets a fan who wants to have sex, he spends time with his son, he visits an old friend, a stalker is crowbarred in; none of these scenes are in the least bit attached to one another. More concerning is that none of these scenes are individually very interesting.
Exactly what Gillen and Thraves are attempting to pull off with Pickups is difficult to fathom. The quasi-real elements – Aiden plays an actor called Aiden working for a director called Jamie – produces a frustrating thematic mess. The concepts are there but the execution is left solely wanting; the skittish sketch-show experience failing to hit the target at almost every turn. Apart from an appealing incident teaching local kids to collapse theatrically after suffering a fake punch, Aiden is entirely one-dimensional, and the dead-pan narration – which comes and goes as it pleases – does nothing to add to the appeal.
Pickups could have been a welcome enigmatic tale of murder and greasy spoons, something only the British can ever pull off. Unfortunately, Gillen and Thraves have produced something more akin to a feature length in-joke conceived on an intentionally distressed leather sofa in a North London boozer. During its thankfully brief 74 minutes the occasional moment gains traction, but overall the lack of continuity, deliberate plot perplexity and limited character development burns little to memory.
Dir: Jamie Thraves
Scr: Jamie Thraves, Aiden Gillen
Cast: Aiden Gillen
Prd: Phil Bowman, Jamie Thraves
DOP: Scott Sandford
Music: Cathy Lucas, Jamie Thraves
Country: UK, Ireland
Run Time: 74 minutes