Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Karl Gajdusek
Cast: Édgar Ramírez, Anna Brewster, Michael Pitt, Sharlto Copley
Producer: Jesse Berger, Jason Michael Berman, Barry Levine
Streaming Platform: Netflix
You can’t make this shit up. A man in an Armani jacket (he insists on it being Armani) walks into the mansion of his father who tried to have him killed. He then has an uncomfortably proximate engagement with his sister, and then walks into his father’s study. He is expecting a Roman orgy but finds his father alone, and then they tear open old wounds, recklessly screaming at each other because he had slept with his step-mother (his father’s second wife). His father then tells him that he killed her, only to now point a gun at his son who also accuses him of killing his (biological) mother. His father proclaims, “We all use each other, and we all hate each other.” It all ends in a blood bath. It’s the perfect marriage of nihilism and nonsense.
This scene gives you some idea of the convoluted nature of any narrative strand. Like an Abbas-Mustan feature without the Pritam soundtrack, this film lazily plots and schemes on-the-go. But unlike those movies, this isn’t even half-fun. It’s an awfully designed screenplay where by the time the exposition is made, and the rationale provided, you have stopped caring.
The film is based on a 2009 comic book by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. The set-up is fascinating. We are in the lead up to the American Government’s implementation of a technology that slit your synapses, preventing you from committing anything illegal- one character describes this as “brain rape”. Looting and riot are on the rise, and it is all bulging towards a finale where a final billion-dollar historic heist is being pulled off. The team is led, somewhat stoically by Graham Bricke (Édgar Ramírez). He sexes up the main guy’s fiance Shelby (Anna Brewster) and just plods along with gunfire and cuban cigars on men doused with diesel.
This is where the film lost me. It wants to show what violence looks like, what happens in that one moment of impact, when metallic bullets pierce flesh- the dust, the remnants of skin that fly off, and the viscous blood. But here violence doesn’t feel like a means to an end. Violence is the end. Such stories are a dangerous throwback to a time when entertainment was seen as just that. The film’s purpose is to make violence look sexy and almost aspirational. Any film that makes you want to pull a trigger must be questioned thoroughly, and a film like this in a time like this, with nothing to add to the cultural discourse is a lazy cop-out.
But one of the film’s worst issues is the suspense that never builds up to a harrowing moment of will-they-won’t-they. It’s supposed to be a historic heist, but my mind was occupied by the unprotected sex they just had, rendering her boyfriend a cuckold. As a viewer you are wading in all these boated sub-plots, like Graham’s brother’s death in prison, that really make you feel no warmer about a character or their intentions. There is an ease with which things just get accomplished, and so there is no point in emotional investment. The one car-chase scene smack in the middle of the 2.5 hour duration is nail-biting but there’s nothing here we haven’t seen. The same can be said about the movie, and its characters, who seem to be the lowest-common-denominator of a Tarantino universe, they want to be quirky and violent and indulgent and stylish and memorable. But sir, where’s the talent?