This movie is based on the French crime novel La Position Du Tireur Couchè by Jean-Patrick Manchette, hence this is an American/French collaboration. As generally stated with movies like this I have no idea how accurate the movie is to the source material because I haven’t read the book. But, I like to look at this movie thusly, Sean Penn’s audition to play James Bond, or showing he could be James Bond if he hammered out the accent.
The plot is about as cliched as you can get and we’ve seen a shitzillion times. A team of undercover special-ops mercs are given the task of assassinating a high ranking Minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006. The reason being the Congo is racked with civil war and large evil mining corporations are taking full advantage. The Minister of Mining for the Congo declares contracts are unjust and need to be renegotiated with the corporations. So the large evil mining corporations hire Jim Terrier’s team to assassinate the Minister. Everything goes well and Jim vanishes from Africa. 8 years later Jim returns to the Congo as an aid worker but quickly finds himself under attack from a hit team. After fleeing to London to meet up with an old member of his ops team, Jim is told his old special-ops boss has created a huge new international security company that pick up prestige contracts from all over the world including the Pentagon. In order to clear the new companies shady past, all previous special-ops team members are to be eliminated. Jim must now evade being killed, get help from old team mates and unravel who exactly was his special-ops boss…because he didn’t know?
So yes this plot is as old as the hills, seen many Hollywood A-list stars take on very similar, if not identical roles. Lets get one thing out of the way right off the bat, Sean Penn and his bod. So clearly Penn decided to get into shape for this movie, by that I mean get pretty seriously ripped. OK that’s fine, good for him. The issue I have is that we’re not allowed to forget that fact, its literally shoved down our throats at every given moment, at every turn. There isn’t a minute that goes by where Penn isn’t trying to remove his shirt so he can flash his newly acquired muscles at us, usually glazed in sweat for that extra glistening effect. Now as I’ve said he does look good, especially for age (even though his wealth allows him to get expert help, training, dietary assistance etc…), but it just feels like most of what we see in this movie, is just in the movie to show off his muscles. Example, the amount of cliched, corny bollocks in this flick is off the scale. Everything you’ve seen done in previous (better) movies, every single cliche from the book of cliches.
When things get too much for Penn he gets into the shower and has an angst ridden wash. He leans against the wall of the shower, his head between his arms, looking down, allowing the water to run through his hair and down his thick biceps. When he gets out of the shower he’s in front of a moisture covered mirror. He wipes his hand across the mirror to reveal his solemn face, he stares at himself, full of angst, clenches his jaw a bit, he’s clearly thinking how serious the situation is…in a really butch type way. He actually does this action a few times throughout the movie. He walks around his hideouts topless all the time…full of angst. He loves to wear bulletproof vests topless. He stares into space whilst sitting in the shadows which just happens to make his muscles look even more butch, and bigger! There is of course a love interest, and oh my God so much sexual tension and sexual angst with that. The amount of topless, glistening muscle shots in dim lighting we see is incredible! All the while, totally full of angst because grrr…full on angst ridden butchness (is that a word?).
Another thing that always amuses me about these type of movies, everyone is apparently massively rich. I mean sure, these guys are ex-special-ops so chances are they may have made lots of money sure, but its amazing how many of them manage to wind up with stunning executive jobs afterwards. Either that or they are able to start up their own massively successful company. The locations seen in this movie are stunning, simply stunning, the kind of places that only people like Sean Penn would be able to afford. All the offices have sweeping city views out of the large windows, apartments right on the banks of the Thames, all the residential locations are either huge and luxurious, or just plain huge with antique good looks. Good job to because when the bad guys turn up to try and kill Jim and co the huge locations give them plenty of places to run, hide and escape. Almighty convenient don’t ya think, its almost as if they do this deliberately for grandiose action sequences (I’m rolling my eyes here by the way). Yep, not many realistic locations here folks, unless you live in a Spanish mansion?
What makes this even more silly is the fact that’s its clearly supposed to be this hard hitting, serious action drama, but its laden with cock ups…as far as I’m concerned anyway. When Terrier makes his deadly kill in the initial assassination, he leaves the gun behind complete with his fingerprints all over it! No he wasn’t wearing any special gloves, his hands were bare and at no point does he try to cover his tracks. 8 years later Jim goes back to the Congo…why??!! This guy carried out a major assassination there that won’t have been forgotten, surely you’re asking for trouble going back. Whilst in the UK (with another undercover colleague played by Ray Winstone) Jim has internal head issues (he suffers from trauma due to his militaristic past) and passes out in the street. Somehow he manages to get seen at a hospital, for a full brain scan, just like that! Normally most folk would have to wait ages for something like that in the UK under the NHS, and I doubt they would run an expensive test like that for someone dragged in off the street. Sure this is a movie so you assume Terrier’s colleague pulled some strings…but really, come on! Lastly the finale, its lame, totally anti-climatic and I hated how Jim just reveals he had a recording of the whole build up to the assassination back at the start of the movies story, this whole time. Yeah right, pull that deus ex machina moment right outta ya ass movie.
Cliches and Hollywoodisms (did I just make up another word?!) aside, honesty this isn’t a bad flick despite my moaning, its actually pretty slick, well directed and well edited. Overall the complete package is glossy and relatively engaging, the problem is its completely dated, predictable, corny, fluff of the highest order. The movie wants to be this epic, serious, tension filled action drama so badly, but merely comes off as an excuse for Penn to show off his bod whilst looking moody all the time. Fundamentally Penn is in love with his muscles and wants to show them to you, and the movie feels self-indulgent and old hat.