Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendon Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Robert Patrick and Sam Sheppard.
Running Time: 114 mins.
Seen at: The Trafford Centre’s Odeon.
On: Thursday, 1st March, 2012.
Time is everything in an action thriller. Too talky and slow - then you don’t have enough action, or, too many explosions – and the narrative just becomes secondary – and that’s really my main contention with this film.
The plot’s premise itself is quite thin – a ruthless ex-cop, Tobin Frost has gone rogue (don’t they all?) in South Africa, so, straight laced Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is charged with the post of keeping him under ‘house arrest’, which predictably, doesn’t last…
The characterization and performances are mixed. As the icy-cool, aptly-named Tobin Frost, Denzel Washington is effortlessly charismatic, but he’s not being stretched or challenged in any way, and Ryan Reynolds is just stilted and rather bland as the non-descript moral centre, playing a character who is at least written as far too squeaky-clean, and is therefore unengaging. Frost on the other hand is the far more interesting character, so much so, that the audience will inevitably take his side, as opposed to our unremarkable hero’s.
More impressive are the underused supporting roles, namely Brendon Gleeson adding considerable gravitas, it’s always great to see Robert Patrick, best known as Terminator 2’s liquid-metal-bending T-1000 of course. The best performance however, comes from an understated Sam Shepherd, peering over his glasses disapprovingly – growling a few words and strolling away with every scene he’s in.
Where the film literally ‘accelerates’, is in its action sequences. Whether they bang, punch, rev or strangle their way frenetically onto the screen. They’re in the form of swarming shoot-outs, violent hand-to-hand combats, head-drowning, a wince-inducing confrontation with shards of glass, or two breathlessly-paced car chases, you certainly feel right in the middle of the action, thanks to some of the fastest-paced editing I’ve ever seen on screen. The scenario in question occurs when Matt locks a hand-cuffed Frost in the boot of his car, with the police in hot pursuit. Eventually he breaks out and attempts to strangle Matt, which leads to some unique driving skills being on display… Plaudits should definitely go to cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Richard Pearson – for hammering home this sense of exhilarating voyeurism.
The problem is, apart from the set-pieces themselves and a clever spin on a hostage situation at Cape Town’s football stadium - there’s little else in between.
There’s a lazy love interest element, which is actually quite half-hearted considering it’s the supposed romantic angle of the narrative.
Even more frustrating however, is the fact that far too many vital strands of plot are continually under-wraps. Key characters repeatedly refer to a computerized ‘file’ everyone’s desperate to obtain, but it’s never clear what it contains. Consequently, several characters’ motivations evaporate, never presenting the traitor with their own agenda.
Stylistically though, the reveal of the traitor’s identity is suitably quick and shocking, as is the fate of their latest victim – on the brief receiving end.
The score captures the hustle-and bustle flavour of Cape town and ramps up the tension, particularly when the idea of identity within a crowded street scene is experimented with.
Overall, it’s slightly too long, and the dialogue is often used as padding before we jump to the next bout of action, but if fans of Washington are looking to be entertained, rather than made to think, then this case of style over substance, is likely to appeal.
Rating: * * *