The Ballad of Billy McCrae review – erotic noir is on rocky ground

This Wales-set thriller is called The Ballad of Billy McCrae for unaccountable reasons – it’s quite obvious throughout that the story isn’t about the title character at all. McCrae is played by David Hayman, a fine actor who seems to get cast whenever a Scottish hard man is needed, but he’s very much in a secondary role here. The anchoring protagonist is Chris Blythe (Ian Virgo), who has returned from Canada to his small Welsh home town somewhat in disgrace after he lost a fortune under murky circumstances. He gets a job working for McCrae, a swaggering terrier of a man who runs a quarry business and has a sexy daughter named Elen (Sianad Gregory, appropriately mesmerising).

Before you can say The Postman Always Rings Twice, Blythe and Elen are humping all over her bungalow, even though she warns him her dad will kill him if he finds out about them. But Blythe can’t resist her minxy game-playing, especially the way she likes to wind him up by pretending to be upset or angry one minute and then laughing it off as a joke the next. Most people would just find that extremely annoying, but in erotic crime thrillers such as this, mercurial flirty lying seems to be the most bewitching pheromone imaginable, and the big lug duly falls for it.

If the plot sounds like a reworking of classic film noir tropes, no one seems to have mentioned that to director Chris Crow and his crew. Most of the scenes are shot in cheerful, green sunlight at picturesque locations, as if the Welsh Tourist Board were hired as a film crew to redo Double Indemnity but didn’t know how to make a movie any other way. At least Gregory seems to be having fun vamping it up like mad, which makes up for the largely dull performances elsewhere.

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