Comedy noir is a difficult genre to pull off well - remember 'Welcome to Collinwood'? - but Jean-Baptiste Andrea gets more than half-way there with 'Big Nothing', a blackmailing that rapidly goes horribly, and hilariously, wrong.

David Schwimmer plays Charlie, a writer with an unpublished novel under his belt and a determination to provide for his cop wife (McElhone) and young daughter. With few jobs in sight, he takes a job at the local call centre. There he meets the frustrated and foul-mouthed Gus (an oddly American-accented Pegg) who is assigned to train him in. With his help, Charlie doesn't last long in the job but, now teamed up with Gus and ambitious former beauty queen Josie (Eve), instead gets involved in a plan to blackmail a local reverend. It's a hair-brained scheme to start with and rapidly becomes hairier as things fail to go as planned and every turn seems to be a wrong one.

The plot - of cross, double-cross and triple-cross - is tightly wound to start with but, like a large, too-unwieldy ball of wool, it unravels messily in the last third of the film. Simon Pegg, best known from 2004's sleeper hit 'Shawn of the Dead', has a face that presupposes comedy and he doesn't disappoint here. Surprisingly, he and David Schwimmer - finally escaping his 'Friends' days - make a good team and play off each other well, while Alice Eve has a juicy role as the perky, ever-ready Josie. Cinematographer Richard Greatrex adds substantially to the odd atmosphere, shooting mainly in darkness, with complimentary shades of grey, and throwing split screen and 'toons into the mix.

Although things move from serious to silly and back again at an uneven rate, particularly towards the end of the film, there are still enough laugh-out-loud moments in 'Big Nothing' to justify the price of your cinema admission.

Caroline Hennessy