Two Pigeons Review [SXSW 2017]

Two Pigeons plays off one of my biggest paranoias. This idea of comfort and safety being nothing but illusions. We convince ourselves that when we’re not home, a locked door keeps unwanted snoopers out of our domiciles. Each night, we drift to sleep assuming that nothing will happen while our body lies unresponsive. What if this wasn’t true? Filmmaker Dominic Bridges follows in the footsteps of home-invasion thrillers like Intruder and Hangman in this perverse “comedy” about privacy being earned. Those sick enough can torture us when we’re at our most vulnerable, from wherever they please. The problem is, can Bridges find torment before flying the coop?

Mim Shaikh stars as Hussein, an “oily” real estate agent with questionable morals. Each day he goes through the same routine, sun up to sun down. Wake up, shower, brush teeth, leave for work. When Hussein walks out the door, he assumes no one will be entering his apartment. A reasonable thought that’s totally true – because unknown roommate Orlan (Javier Botet) is already INSIDE Hussein’s abode. As soon as that door shuts, Orlan creeps out to treat Hussein’s apartment like his own. We first assume it’s for survival – like an extreme squatter – but then Orlan begins to desecrate personal belongings. Reusing teabags turns into backwashing in mouthwash bottles, and it only gets worse as time goes on. The question is, when will it all end?

Bridges and co-writer Rae Brunton calculate each day with increasing vileness, parts of which will make your skin crawl. Imagine someone mixing your body wash with bleach, or grooming their taint with your toothbrush. Gagging yet? Two Pigeons knows how to get genre nasty, and certainly doesn’t hold back as Orlan becomes more brazen with his attacks. The thought of waking to privacy invasions is a scene pulled from nightmares, especially during those midnight stalks where Orlan risks being caught. Atmospherically, Two Pigeons raises some hairs based on delivery alone. How else are you supposed to take Orlan blowing his nose into clean panties (that belong to Hussein’s girlfriend)?

Botet is in typical form as Orlan, crawling form under a bed frame with those gangly fingers unfurling into sight first. He emerges as this dirty, homeless-looking vagrant who mostly just wears tighty-whities, but then comedy sets in and tones start to clash. We get more scenes of Botet singing than torturing (a “Strangers In The Night” serenade even), and way more Orlan dick than we signed up for. Motivations are eventually revealed during “conversations” with two pigeons who re-visit Hussein’s window sill, but when it counts most, Botest is hard to understand when talking quickly. No prosthetics or makeup in this one for cinema’s most recognizable giant, yet it’s neither a seamless transition to drama nor sustainable gimmick. No matter how many nunchuck sequences Bridges allows Botet.

Hussein is his own kind of head-scratching buffoon, even though it’s a fine performance by Shaikh. His self-obsession and careful grooming contrasts Botet’s evil retribution well, but he’s no detective. A mid-arc with girlfriend Mel (Mandeep Dhillon) means that Orlan tries to push them apart, and Hussein falls blindly into his trap. Red flags are everywhere, but aggression is diverted towards Mel without much reasoning. Then, once the invasion gets real messy, a gigantic freezer gets shipped to Hussein’s apartment for no reason – but he still signs for it? Everything plays together and sense is made of the situation, but Shaikh’s character fumbles logic in ways that make his predicament less thrilling than it should be. I mean, how interesting can a man who eats pepperoni pizza every night be?

For these reasons, Two Pigeons finds entertainment in dark mind-fucking comedics – but not enough to sustain Dominic Bridges’ slow-simmering room share. The ideas are there and Javier Botet does his best to pull us into his deranged world, but good luck fully comprehending why. It all feels longer than it should be, even at eighty minutes. Some might find enough in voyeuristic displeasure when some bastard eats all your cereal while you aren’t looking, yet even there, more is desired. A timid recommendation, but alas, it’s the best I can do. Seeing for yourself will be the true test here.

Two Pigeons Review [SXSW 2017]

Two Pigeons is a dark comedy that isn't as fun or fluid as it should be, even if some truly deplorable privacy invading takes place.