The Ballad Of Billy McCrae Image

The Ballad Of Billy McCrae

By Bobby LePire | June 13, 2022

The titular Billy is not the main character of The Ballad Of Billy McCrae. The wealthy quarry owner looms large over the lives of all the characters, primary and supporting alike, but director Chris Crow’s dramatic thriller is about Chris Blythe (Ian Virgo). Chris has just returned to his hometown in Wales after his business in Canada went under, and his partner was killed (a crime for which he was charged but ultimately found not guilty). His dad hooks Chris up with a job at the local quarry, run by that “old bastard” Billy McCrae (David Hayman).

Chris catches onto the job quickly enough, and before he knows it, he’s putting his business background to use helping the controlling, violent Billy with his books. In his personal life, Chris can’t escape the McCrae family either, as he and Billy’s daughter, Elen (Sianad Gregory), fall hard for each other rather quickly. Chris is soon Billy’s go-to guy for shady dealings, but the man’s control over his daughter’s life rubs Chris the wrong way. Can Billy change, or will his unscrupulous activities eventually get the better of him?

The Ballad Of Billy McCrae is billed as a thriller, which it eventually turns into. But, the first 40 or 45 minutes is laying the groundwork and airing these people’s drama. Luckily, screenwriter Philip Palmer’s written some interesting characters for the most part. The operative phrase is “for the most part,” as the ending hinges on a twist that upends everything viewers know about a certain person. Unfortunately, not only is this unnecessary, but it also does not work as intended. It feels like a twist for the sake of it, not something born out of story necessity.

Chris is soon Billy’s go-to guy for shady dealings…”

But excluding those last 10 minutes, Chris, Elen, and Billy prove to be very compelling. The Canada debacle is never fully explained, leaving Chris a blank until the plot gets well underway. While that sounds like a bad thing, it is not, making him a bit mysterious. Billy’s rough n tumble attitude feels well-earned from a hard life. Elen’s sometimes immature antics (and occasionally far too childish actions) can be grating, but the reason behind them actually makes a good amount of sense.

The three lead performances bolster The Ballad Of Billy McCrae as well. Virgo’s quiet intensity ensures audiences will never quite know how he’s going to react to any given situation. This amps up the stakes considerably as the ending draws nearer and nearer. Gregory goes from flirty to mad to sad, often in the same scene, believably, while never making the character a cartoon.

But really, this is Hayman’s film from top to bottom. It’s clear the actor is having a ball getting to play a character this fast and loose. He hits all the right beats in the brief action scenes and comes across as truly menacing and intimidating. Hayman makes it seem that even if Billy were to die, there’s no escaping his controlling clutches.

The Ballad Of Billy McCrae does not rewrite the noir thriller in the same way something like Brick does. But it’s a fun genre exercise with some cool moments and solid performances. While flawed, with an ending that does not work as intended, there’s still plenty to recommend and enjoy about the feature.

For more information, visit The Ballad Of Billy McCrae official Facebook page.

The Ballad Of Billy McCrae (2022)

Directed: Chris Crow

Written: Philip Palmer

Starring: Ian Virgo, Sianad Gregory, David Hayman, Gerald Tyler, Ross O'Hennessy, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Ballad Of Billy McCrae Image

"…a fun genre exercise with some cool moments..."

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