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When we last saw Matt Damon’s former CIA hitman Jason Bourne he was busy swimming down the East River at the end of 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, a film that provided a satisfying conclusion to a much-admired action movie trilogy. Nearly a decade later – and following in the wake of the misfiring spin-off The Bourne Legacy – director Paul Greengrass and his star have reunited to give us more of the same, which is a welcome diversion among the crowded summer blockbuster season, even if it can’t really be described as wholly necessary. Y’see, in order to facilitate Bourne’s return to action, Greengrass and his co-writer (also editor) Christopher Rouse have concocted yet another story in which our hero suffers from flashbacks that push him to investigate his past, which of course sets in motion a city-hopping game of cat and mouse between the former agent and the CIA, who want him dead. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as they say.

Initially in Jason Bourne we find the troubled, titular muscleman living off the grid and making money as a bare-knuckle fighter in Greece (cue lingering shots of Damon’s torso). We also discover that former CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is hanging out with a group of hackers in Finland, determined to expose secrets relating to the various black ops programs that have driven the plot of the series so far. (These are all sitting on CIA servers in a folder conveniently titled ‘Black Ops’, just waiting for a former, disgruntled employee to find them before blowing the whistle. In real life I presume such folders are given titles such as ‘My Litte Pony Fan Fiction’ to throw potential cybercriminals off the scent.) Eventually Parsons finds Bourne – best not to consider the logic of that one – and their meeting subsequently alerts the CIA to the fact that their former agent is still alive, so once again lots of special (although not too special) agents are deployed to wipe him out. Over at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Tommy Lee Jones plots and scowls in front of a bank of monitors while Alicia Vikander plots without scowling, the pair taking the place of former bigwigs-at-loggerheads played by the likes Chris Cooper, Scott Glenn, Brian Cox and Joan Allen. Concurrent with the usual mix of car chases, docudrama-style handheld camera, quick cuts, fist fights and lighnting-fast thinking is a rather uninvolving sub-plot featuring Riz Ahmed’s Zuckerberg-alike, which is little more than an unnecessary attempt to remind the audience that the world has changed since the last outing.

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Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander checking Facebook (again!) in Jason Bourne

There’s something vaguely cringeworthy nowadays about Bourne’s constant ability to remain one step ahead of the game, though in fairness Greengrass and previous director Doug Liman have spent lots of time establishing the character’s traits, and it would have been a bizarre move to deviate from the norm with this comeback. There’s also somethnig incredibly cringeworthy about the CIA’s ability to produce crystal clear image enhancements from blurry footage that has been captured on the hoof by agents using mini-telescopes, as well, but it’s the kind of technology that gets wheeled out from time to time and I guess I’m happy enough to give it a pass under the circumstances. Understandably some of the other tricks employed to move the story along also seem a little tired, such as the flashbacks and the CIA’s ability to see just about everything, everywhere (shudder), as well as their knack of having agents in place within seconds. Yet in truth this series still feels closer to reality than other similar and successful spy franchises, such as those featuring Ethan Hunt and James Bond, both of which require the audience to suspend so much disbelief their protagonists may as well be travelling from one location to the next on pink clockwork unicorns.

Despite all these grumbles, and despite the sameyness of it all, it’s easy enough just to go with the flow, and I found Jason Bourne to be quite an exhilerating, well-made action film as a result; one that manages to justify its own existence. (No surprise, really, given that I enjoyed the first three.) Granted we’re further into leave-your-brain-at-the-door territory than we’ve been before, but the two big set pieces in Athens and Las Vegas are gripping, fast-paced and full of admirable stunt work, and that’s exactly what I went to see the movie for…as opposed to a realistic discussion of privacy and social media in the current age. Damon slips back into his old role with little trouble, like he’s pulling on a favourite sweater, and Vincent Cassel has no problem getting to grips with this film’s one-dimensional big bad, as he’s mostly required to kill people without displaying any emotion whatsoever (and the requisite scene in which his character examines his stubble/cuts/bandages in a dirty safehouse mirror is well within his range, too). There’s nothing new here, but if you can stand Greengrass’s love for shakey-cam and disorienting quick cuts there’s still plenty of fun to be had.

Directed by: Paul Greengrass.
Written by: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse. Based on characters by Robert Ludlum.
Starring: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Julia Stiles, Ato Essandoh.
Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd.
Editing: Christopher Rouse.
Music:
John Powell, David Buckley.
Certificate:
12A.
Running Time:
123.
Year:
2016.

8 Comments

Adam Wingard and his regular screenwriter Simon Barrett have carved out fairly successful careers within modern genre cinema, and as with many of their peers they’re both children of the 1980’s, which I suppose explains the throwback stylings of their latest collaboration The Guest. It’s an action thriller with a slightly unpleasant streak that could easily be a remake of some forgotten straight-to-video movie from that decade, and it’s actually quite decent, with both writer and director brazenly paying homage to their influences and a cast in place that seems to have clearly understood the intended tone. There’s a little bit of gore, a sprinkling of cheese, some suburban family wholesomeness that eventually gets buried under a shower of bullets and plenty of nods to John Carpenter and the schlockier end of Cannon Films’ output. And while generally I think it’s high time that directors and their art departments thought a little harder about the way in which they’re going about recreating a 1980’s vibe – pink/purple neon colour palettes and synth-heavy soundtracks are quickly becoming old hat – I think this film shows plenty of other commitment towards re-creating the look and feel of the earlier decade, despite being set in the present.

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Brendan Meyer and Maika Monroe in The Guest

Dan Stevens – hitherto best known for his work in Downton Abbey – plays the archetypal stranger from out of town, quickly ingratiating himself with the family of a young soldier who has been killed in action. For the mother and father (Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser) he’s an obvious replacement for their lost boy, and youngest son Luke (Brendan Meyer) takes to him because he’s a handy bully deterrent. So it’s down to goth daughter Anna (Maika Monroe – who recently appeared in an even more impressive retro genre film) to exhibit frostiness toward the new house guest – despite briefly being impressed by his physique – and it’s Anna who tips off the military when a sudden spate of murders occur in the local area. The film telegraphs the bad guy’s diabolical nature early on – Wingard is not shy about including long, evil stares into mirrors – and so it’s fun watching the family and other locals tiptoe politely around him, especially once we know just how diabolical he actually is. The story may be predictable and the characters, settings and scenarios are familiar – self-obsessed parents not listening to their teenage kids at home, jocks bullying nerds by the lockers, kids getting stoned at house parties, military dudes barking orders around boardroom tables, a creepy fairground backdrop for a bloody finale, etc. – but weirdly the film still feels surprisingly fresh; and despite being mostly serious it retains an underlying sense of fun right up to the final shot. Stevens makes for a compelling villain, and the British actor delivers what to my ears is a perfect American accent, which sums up the better-than-average quality here.

Directed by: Adam Wingard.
Written by: Simon Barrett.
Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick.
Cinematography: Robby Baumgartner.
Editing: Adam Wingard.
Music:
Steve Moore.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
99 minutes.
Year:
2014.

21 Comments

As the years go by I find it harder and harder to muster the same levels of enthusiasm for certain films that I used to have, particularly with regard to those that I watched repeatedly during my teenage and student years. James Cameron’s Aliens is one of them: I still like it, but the fact is I’ve probably seen it at least half a dozen times over the years, and so familiarity has lessened the film’s impact considerably. However, I’d never had the chance to see it on the big screen until last week; to coincide with the 30th anniversary of its release, London’s Prince Charles Cinema has recently been showing Aliens in 70mm to packed audiences, so it seemed like a good opportunity to check it out one last time. After this I doubt I’ll watch it again … life’s too short and there’s so much more I’d rather spend my time seeing. Like…er…Ghostbusters reboots and Now You See Me sequels.

I wouldn’t say that the experience has changed my opinion on the film in any way, but for what it’s worth I enjoyed it and still think Aliens stands up today as being one of the high watermarks of 1980’s action or science fiction movies. After all, primarily thanks to Cameron’s adept handling of tense, bullet-heavy sequences – and his raging hard-on for military grade hardware – Aliens is still great fun to watch, even though the more downbeat moments within the film are occasionally a little rough around the edges. Some of the acting by those playing marines, for example, is decidedly ropey, although it’s true that the biggest culprit – Bill Paxton –  manages to turn a largely forgettable character into a memorable one thanks to his enjoyably over-the-top surf dude performance; his ‘Game over, maaaaaan, game over!’ is the film’s second most quoted line after Sigourney Weaver’s ‘Get away from her, you bitch!’, and both predictably drew applause and cheers during the screening. Similarly amusing is Al Matthews as the cigar-chomping, wide-eyed Sergeant Apone, a character who lights up within two seconds of waking up from stasis and who sadly bites the big one far too soon, though it does at least save the audience from any more overacting. Then there’s Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez) and Michael Biehn (Hicks), both delivering stellar performances while they’re running around, shouting and shooting at aliens, but both showing their limitations each time they’re required to slow down and talk things through with Weaver’s Ripley. Still, as we all know there are some really strong performances here alongside the more colourful and cartoonish ones: Lance Henriksen is pretty good in his brief scenes as the android Bishop and Paul Reiser makes a decent fist of the slimy and self-centred corporate suit Burke. But this is Weaver’s film, and she is superb (again) as Ripley, the lone survivor from the first story who must conquer her nightmares by returning to the scene of earlier devestation. She picked up an Oscar nomination for her performance, and rightly so; what’s more – even though she eventually lost out to Children Of A Lesser God‘s Marlee Matlin – it was received during an era when the Academy still sniffed haughtily at all things sci-fi.

They were fine in 1986, but some of the effects have understandably dated, although it must be said that the actual alien effects hold up just fine and all the elements surrounding the creatures in their slimy lair still look great today. With the notable exception of the aliens themselves the special effects were always of less importance to this mood-heavy franchise than a lot of other sci-fi of the era anyway; I personally think that you remember the Alien films because of the look of the monsters as well as the dirty, dingy, industrial production design, rather than the quality of the shots of spaceships flying through the sky. Cameron continued with Scott’s ‘truckers in space’ motif for his sequel, and once again everything’s battered and used and feels like it’s about to break down. And there’s so much heavy machinery everywhere! One of the director’s masterstrokes was to incorporate a giant forklift exoskeleton in the final battle, making for an evenly-matched fight to the death that is surely this film’s one truly great scene (though even that titanic scrap falls some way short of the greatness of the chestburster scene in Alien).

As with Alien, masculine and corporate aggression and arrogance are punished here in a terrifyingly brutal fashion, although the two films were entirely different beasts: Cameron’s sequel is the all-guns-blazing battle royale after the slow, disconcerting build up of Ridley Scott’s original, and the action is certainly intense and frightening here, as numerous aliens scuttle along vents and under floor panels, stalking the human prey. It’s difficult to compare the two – Scott made a horror film set in space and Cameron followed it up with a war film set in space – but this latest viewing has cemented my belief that Scott’s film is superior, mainly because it came first, created many of the series’ themes and established the two major characters: the alien and Ripley. There are, of course, plenty of reasons why I’ve watched Cameron’s blistering, flame-throwing funfest so many times over the years, though. So yeah, it’s still a blast thirty years later, but I think I’ve had my fill now.

Note: This screening was for the film’s 30th anniversary so the cinema showed the original version. As everyone knows the Special Edition director’s cut is better AND shootier and that’s the version I’ve generally watched in the past.

Directed by: James Cameron.
Written by: James Cameron. Story by James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill.
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Al Matthews.
Cinematography: Adrian Biddle.
Editing: Ray Lovejoy.
Music:
James Horner.
Certificate:
18.
Running Time:
137 minutes.
Year:
1986.

17 Comments

John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 is one of those cops-versus-robbers thrillers that invites the application of adjectives like taut, or muscular. And it’s apt that those words are normally associated with the human body: this is the kind of film that requires its actors to act tough and look tough, so it’s jam-packed with stars who have clearly been working out at the gymif you were to sniff the screen at any point you’d probably OD on testosterone. All the men here sweat profusely as they do their Man Things, such as loading weapons, robbing banks, shooting other people, grimacing, chasing other men with guns, driving really fast and telling each other to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Then, to remind you that deep down some of them are actually sensitive human beings, and that we should care about their fate, Hillcoat ensures that we see a couple of wives being kissed or the affectionate ruffling of a child’s mop top.

Sadly the film never quite manages to wriggle out from underneath a suffocating blanket of cops-versus-robbers-muscular-taut-thriller clichés. It’s partly about a group of bent cops and ex-military badasses who are performing artfully-planned robberies in Atlanta at the behest of Kate Winslet’s ruthless Russian Mafia boss. As soon as you meet the group you can guess what their fates will be: there’s the leader (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who doesn’t trust a couple of other members of the gang; his loyal right-hand man (Norman Reedus), whose status marks him out as dead meat from the off; the wild one whose mouth is going to get them into trouble (Aaron Paul); a conflicted detective (Anthony Mackie); and a very unconflicted, cold-hearted detective (Clifton Collins, Jr) who is bound to sell everyone down the Chattahoochee at some point. It’s also partly about an honest cop (Casey Affleck) who gets caught up in their plans to steal some kind of MacGuffin or other from a secure facility: the gang’s aim is to create a ‘Triple 9’ diversion in the city by killing Affleck’s cocky detective Chris Allen, thus drawing most of the city’s police force to the scene, and allowing the gang extra time to carry out their theft elsewhere.

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Kate Winslet and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Triple 9

As you can see the chief selling point of the film is the ensemble cast; in addition to those mentioned above Woody Harrelson has a fairly sizeable role as Allen’s coke-snorting, weed-smoking uncle, who also happens to be the baggy-suited Sgt. Detective trailing the bank robbers (you have to regularly ignore such unlikely coincidences during Triple 9). Gal Gadot – at the beginning of a month that will presumably change her life forever, regardless of earlier success and achievement – has a small role as Ejiofor’s girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child and the sister of Winslet’s icy Irina Vaslov. Michael K. Williams and Teresa Palmer also get a scene or two, with Williams’ transvestite informant accessorising with a small dog that has been dyed pink (poor thing). In fact the cast is pretty good, and although we’ve seen many of these characters and scenarios before – Heat and The Town spring to mind – these stars show enough committment to the shouting and grimacing and running and shooting to make Triple 9 work. In particular both Harrelson and Winslet are fun to watch, playing completely over-the-top characters that allow both actors to partake in welcome bouts of scenery-chewing. Of the two, Winslet wisely exercises a little more restraint, while Harrelson can’t help himself.

The action is also of a good standard. An early robbery and getaway attempt via the city’s busy freeway can’t quite match the tension of Heat‘s street shootout or Sicario‘s gripping traffic jam scene, but two later claustrophobic sequences set in housing projects more than make up for it, and allow Mackie and Affleck further opportunites to sweat and practice their grimaces. These are well-handled by the director and his cinematographer, who put you in the middle of proceedings by employing hand-held cameras and shooting in close proximity to the actors. It’s a little disorienting at times, as hand-held camera footage tends to be in action films, but I can’t deny that the overall effect works well. So, given there are edge-of-your-seat sequences and the performances are on the money it’s a shame that Triple 9 is let down by an unremarkable industrial score and an unimaginative screenplay. There’s a bulbous mass of familiar material: as good as the action sequences are, the build up to each one is disappointing, and there’s little original about the numerous scenes set in police stations, the pavement confrontations with Hispanic gangs or the criminals relaxing in strip clubs before their big job. What makes this doubly frustrating is the fact that Triple 9 almost succeeds. Almost. Hillcoat is on the right path, his actors are on board, and I felt sufficiently entertained by the end, but ultimately the film fails to wriggle completely free of the cop action movie pack.

Directed by: John Hillcoat.
Written by: Matt Cook.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Clifton Collins, Jr, Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot, Luis Da Silva, Michael K. Williams.
Cinematography: Nicolas Karakatsanis.
Editing: Dylan Tichenor.
Music:
Atticus Ross, Bobby Krlic, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
115 minutes.
Year:
2016.

9 Comments

Jason Statham was a surprise comic highlight of 2015 thanks to his self-immolating role in Paul Feig’s Spy, when he successfully sent-up his own tough-guy persona. The Stath remains a watchable guilty pleasure when he’s beating people up, too, as evidenced by the three short-but-sparky fight scenes in Simon West’s Wild Card. He won’t win any acting awards for his slightly ropey performance in-between the scrapping, of course, but then who watches a Jason Statham film for the quality of the acting? Here he’s an Englishman in Las Vegas with a gambling addiction and a shadowy past: Special Forces, SAS or something else, I didn’t quite catch it and it doesn’t matter anyway. Anyway, the character has ground out a living as a security man for hire, accompanying rich people around the city’s casinos, and in doing so he makes enough to rent an office that he shares with a Better Call Saul-style attorney. Through his work he seems to know half of the city’s female employees, from waitresses to call girls and croupiers to hotel cleaners. When one of these women is assaulted by a stereotypical Italian gangster, Statham’s character Nick Wild nobly sets about righting the wrong, and becomes embroiled in a running battle with the mid-level mobster and his lumpy henchmen. That’s about it, really, but there are some extra bits and bobs worth noting. Wild’s motivation throughout appears to be the promise of a future life in his ‘happy place’, which involves sailing a boat around Corsica, an image that usually pops into his head five seconds before he smashes an ashtray into someone’s face. Secondly there’s a rather impressive list of supporting actors here, including Anne Heche, Hope Davis and Stanley Tucci, though no-one makes a lasting impression as their characters are routinely forgotten about five minutes after they first appear. Lastly Wild Card is from the pen of the great William Goldman, and based on his own novel Heat, previously a Burt Reynolds vehicle; with a stellar career behind him that includes Oscar wins for his writing on Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and All The President’s Men it’s safe to say this latest script isn’t a high point. As for the star, well, it’s another Jason Statham character in another Jason Statham vehicle. With only three short fights this is light on high-octane thrills, and as such perhaps signals that he is trying to leave the busier, louder action franchises and standalones behind, though it’s worth noting that this attempt to branch out a little was a box-office bomb.

Directed by: Simon West.
Written by: William Goldman. Based on Heat by William Goldman.
Starring: Jason Statham, Michael Angarano, Milo Ventimiglia, Dominik Garcia-Loredo, Anne Heche, Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, Sofia Vergara, Max Casella, Jason Alexander.
Cinematography: Shelly Johnson.
Editing: Padraic McKinley.
Music: Dario Marianelli.
Certificate: 
15.
Running Time: 
92 minutes.
Year:
2015.

9 Comments

The last film of Michael Mann’s to get bad reviews prior to Blackhat, 2006’s Miami Vice, has been the subject of a critical reappraisal in recent years. Some have suggested that Vice was unfairly written-off at the time of release, and while I couldn’t say whether I agree or not, having only watched it the once, I do wonder whether a similar reviewing awaits this 2015 box office flop in the future. I’m not suggesting for one minute that either Blackhat or Miami Vice is up there with Mann’s best work (let’s say Thief, Heat and The Insider, for argument’s sake) but I do think the reviews that labelled Blackhat slow-paced and boring were somewhat wide of the mark, and far too dismissive of its obvious qualities. In fact I’ve seen a couple of well-reasoned arguments made by respected critics and writers who have included Blackhat in a list of their favourite films of 2015, and while I don’t think I’ll be going that far myself I can certainly see why it has its champions.

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Thor marks his emails from Captain America as ‘read’

Mann’s worst received film to date, it stars Chris Hemsworth as a former ‘black hat’ computer hacker (i.e. someone who uses their abilities for malicious purposes) taken out of jail to help on a joint FBI / Chinese government mission; his job is to track down a clever, ruthless cyber-opponent, and a pan-Asian game of cat and mouse ensues. Essentially what we have here is an old-school thriller with some ultra-modern window dressing. The plot feels like it has been kicking around for decades, bringing uneasy bedfellows from the east and west together in order to take down a common foe; where once we might have seen America and Russia teaming up today we have the US pooling its resources with China. The tech stuff adds a modern gloss, but even that’s filmed in a resolutely old-fashioned style, with lines of green code stacking up on small monitors and data shown passing through digitally-rendered cables and circuit boards. The action sequences – typically for Mann – are slow by today’s standards, but they’re as loud and as powerfully-rendered as ever. When the gunfire subsides the close combat also seems defiantly sluggish in an age where Bond, Hunt and Bourne leap from roof to roof and trade blows with their enemies at a fast and furious pace. Blackhat‘s hand-to-hand fighting is violent, though, and it’s as brutally swift as it is realistic, save for one scene in which Hemsworth’s Nick Hathaway beats up three turn-taking henchmen in a restaurant, which could have been lifted straight from a late ’80s Steven Seagal movie.

Some of Mann’s slickly-delivered tropes – the fascination with skyscrapers at night, the shots of choppers and sleek private jets leaving or arriving in cities – have gradually become old hat, too, but they’re still as aesthetically-pleasing as they ever were. Perhaps I was in the right mood, but I enjoyed all of this, and I feel like it’s still a pleasure to see this auteur’s signature moves and style, even if the character types and plot points are becoming a little wearisome. Hathaway is your typical Mann protagonist: a strong, suave silent type who happens to be an expert in his field, he’s on the trail of a dangerous man who is on the other side of the law, though they share some common traits. Hemsworth is a good fit for such a part even if it is a stretch to accept the muscular, glowing leading man as a Foucault-reading hacker. (The running, fighting and shooting? No problem at all.) Opposite him Tang Wei, who starred in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, doesn’t really have a great deal to do, which is a shame. Her character is supposedly a high-ranking engineer, but ends up deferring to Hathaway, dutifully following his orders when he says it’s for the best if she leaves and returning to his arms like rather pathetically when the film requires a dash of romantic action. Perhaps slightly more interesting in terms of the supporting characters is Viola Davis’ cold, sarcastic FBI agent, but sadly even she becomes just another person who is in thrall of Hemsworth’s Hathaway, following him from location to location as he gradually becomes the group’s de facto leader.

Three big action set-pieces arrive in the second half of the film, all gripping. Perhaps that’s indicative of Blackhat‘s biggest problem: there’s nothing quite as thrilling as these during the first half, and even Mann struggles to make the scenes in which someone types or reads code on a screen even remotely interesting; there are far too many of these as Hathaway and co latch onto their opponent’s trail. So yes, Blackhat is a little disjointed: I much preferred the second half to the first, but I’d still take a Michael Mann action thriller over the numerous efforts churned out by hack directors each year, and there’s enough here for fans to get their teeth into. Not his best, by any means, but certainly not the stinker it was made out to be.

Directed by: Michael Mann.
Written by: Morgan Davies Foehl, Michael Mann.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Holt McCallany, Wang Leehom.
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh.
Editing: Joe Walker, Stephen E. Rivkin, Jeremiah O’Driscoll, Mako Kamitsuna.
Music:
 Atticus Ross, Harry Gregson-Williams.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
133 minutes.
Year:
2015.

9 Comments

The Gunman is a thriller that’s severely lacking in lustre: it’s no surprise that it flopped earlier this year, and the poor reviews it received at the time of its release seem entirely justified. Pierre Morel’s film has plenty of star power, at least, and it looks like Sean Penn’s trying to muscle in on Liam Neeson’s generous share of the old man action flick market, as he spends much of the running time being Really Good At Killing People (which is handy, because he doesn’t really do much else) in a Neeson-esque fashion. His character, the bizarrely-named Jim Terrier (to which I say: ‘why not go for “Rick Poodle” and give us all a much-needed laugh?’), is an ex-special forces mercenary lone wolf black-ops agent who doesn’t do what he’s told and squints a lot and is regularly topless and smokes cigarettes like a maaaan and has a code that he sticks to and has a load of passports stashed away and blah de blah de blah de blah. We first meet him in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is supposedly providing security to a mining company, though in fact he’s a member of a hit squad that has been paid to assassinate the country’s Minister for Mining, who wants to renegotiate all the unfair contracts his country has made with visiting corporations. Despite the fact tough-guy Terrier has clearly done this kind of thing day-in, day-out for years, this latest cold-blooded murder sends him into a bad place, bizarrely triggering a debilitating cognitive disease as well as a huge crisis of conscience: when we next see him, eight years later, he’s back in the country doing penance as a charity worker with an NGO, building wells for small communities. (At least Jim Terrier has more time for the African country and its people than director Morel and the film’s three writers, of which Penn is one: the political situation in the DCR is conveyed via the hackneyed technique of brief, simplified news reports, while only one African character gets a name, a line and something to do.)

The action moves to Europe, and mainly to Spain. Terrier has a nemesis, of sorts, in the shape of Javier Bardem’s odious, one-dimensional Felix, who is introduced after one minute with the kind of rumbling bass note on the soundtrack that leaves you in no doubt as to his duplicitous and evil nature. Felix a fully-paid up member of the Society of Professional Arseholes marries Terrier’s girlfriend Annie (Jamine Trinca) after the assassination, when Jim goes into hiding, but the three are re-united in Barcelona. Here Bardem chews his way through so much scenery I doubt there’s much of the city left for anyone to visit, the highlight being the most unrealistic portrayal of a drunk man I’ve seen for some time. Anyway: someone is out to get Terrier for his part in the earlier murder, for some reason or other, and it could be Felix, or it could be Mark Rylance’s ex-special forces black ops lone wolf mercenary, or it could be Ray Winstone’s cockney geezer stereotype, or it could be Idris Elba’s Interpol agent, who is the kind of spook that mysteriously appears out of nowhere, says something vaguely cool or cryptic, and departs after leaving a card with his name and number on it so that he can conveniently return to the film at a later, crucial point. Yeesh. The male supporting actors here are really poor, the film’s three Terrier vs Henchmen battles in three different locations appear back-to-back, while the script is often laughably bad. At one point Penn’s character actually says the words ‘I was video-documenting on my cellphone earlier like a goddamn wazoo’. Well, I’m sick of text-documenting on my computer like a goddamn wazoo, and refuse to  spend any more time and effort discussing a movie that is every bit as tired and uninspired as its title.

Directed by: Pierre Morel.
Written by: Don Macpherson, Pete Travis, Sean Penn. Based on The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette.
Starring: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba.
Cinematography: Flavio Martinez-Labiano.
Editing: Frédéric Thoraval.
Music:
Marco Beltrami.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
115 minutes.
Year:
2015.

8 Comments