Director: Pierre Morel (2015)
Sean Penn is a brain-damaged assassin on the run in this dull and brutal action thriller.
It has a preposterous plot, makes heavy-handed political statements and has no sympathetic characters.
The frequent action sequences are powered by a fistful of heavyweight actors (Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance). But they can’t distract you from how staggeringly implausible it all is.
Eight years ago, private security operative and part-time assassin Jim Terrier (Penn) abandoned his lovely girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He had to leave quickly after being the principal gunman responsible for the murder of the Minister of Mining, which threw the troubled country into renewed chaos.
Now Terrier has returned and is now working peacefully for an NGO but Annie is long gone. This gives Terrier plenty of time to go surfing and show off his impressive physique.
Penn’s body is by Charles Atlas, hair colour by Paul McCartney and skin tone by David Dickinson.
One day he’s attacked by shotgun and machete wielding thugs. After manfully protecting himself with a shovel, he’s jetting off to London to talk to former colleagues to discover why he’s been targeted.
In a swanky office overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral he meets Cox (Rylance). He now heads a multinational security firm and explains the other members of Terrier’s former hit-squad are dead.
So Terrier meets his friend and former SAS soldier Stanley (Winstone) in the pub. After winning a fight with a footie fan, Terrier is diagnosed with a brain condition which causes amnesia, nausea, headaches, dizziness and blurred vision.
It’s incurable but the doctor does provide headache pills and a sweet smile.
Terrier’s amnesia is so bad he forgets to suffer symptoms. Especially after being involved in explosive gunfights of the sort he’s specifically told to avoid, for fear of aggravating his condition.
London is grey so they fly to sunny Barca sunny which is full of bull-fighting. They contact a civilian who ran the Congo assassination, the drunkard Felix (Bardem).
He’s now married to Terrier’s former love Annie and lives in a palatial villa – but keeps his flash car in a nearby farmer’s barn.
Afters some handbags in a restaurant Annie finds Terrier at his secret Spanish Legion hideout. They’re soon making up for lost time before being separated – again.
Cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano aims for epic sweep with helicopter shots and tries to heighten our tension by closing the frame with lots of shallow focus.
The brutal violence but conspicuous lack of nudity and bloodshed suggests a more graphic product was imagined in the filming but the four – count them – four producers compromised the editing of Frédéric Thoraval to chase a lower certificate and a wider market.
The plot ricochets around with betrayals, explosions and a brief appearance by Idris Elba. There’s neck-snapping fist-fights, lots of gun play, more explosions and an angry bull.
There’s lots of bull here and if that weakly constructed metaphor is good enough to be used in the film – then it’s good enough for this review.