After yesterdays orgy of films in the Best Picture Showcase, it was time for a little palate cleaning with a new release that won’t be nominated for anything next year. That does not mean that it is worthless but it does mean that this movie is designed only to be consumed and disposed of like the popcorn you should be overdosing on while it plays out in front of you. Kevin Costner has always been a favorite of mine, and although he has gone out of vogue a bit, he appears to be enjoying a renaissance. This is the second of three movies that he has out in the first four months of the year and the second one where he is playing spy games.
When the movie starts you might be tempted to laugh immediately. Two of the characters that the CIA is going after are codenamed “The Wolf” and “The Albino”. I expected Clint Eastwood to show up and he and Costner to scale a mountain in the alps. This just sounded like stereotypically cliched writing from a 1970s spy film. When Amber Heard show up repeatedly in black leather or latex, like some dominatrix that walked in out of a Roger Moore 007 outing, it was even more embarrassing. I began to wonder if people had lost any sense of reality and what century we are in. There is an effective shoot out to begin the movie, but the exterior of the hotel did make it look like an abandoned area of Serbia, which given the technical credits would not be surprising.
As it turns out, the film is a bit of a comedy spy film. They try to play most of the explosions, chases and shootouts straight, but every now and then, Costner’s character makes contact with an opposition counterpart and a relationship begins to form. It is a little one sided but it works to make this a different kind of movie. The character of Ethan Renner is motivated by a different type of ticking clock and it is not just the bad guys he has to tangle with. He is trying to reconnect with his daughter Zoey, played by Hailee Steinfeld, from the “True Grit” remake back in 2010. She is a little older now and works well as the antipathetic and somewhat estranged child of a spy. It turns out that the nut does not fall far from the tree when it comes to the truth department.
The most satisfying element of the film takes place when our hardened spy takes on punks that are in over their depth. Four young men on the brink of drug induced date rape get the sort of ass kicking that every father would like to inflict on someone who dares to even look sideways at his princess. He suckers some professionals with a doorstop and simply displays a gun as a way of coping with some bouncer types at an underground rave. The laws of France appear to be a little to liberated from my point of view when it comes to your personal property, but Ethan manages to negotiate a sticky situation with his apartment in a manner that lets us know that even though he is a bad ass, he is not really a bad man.
Three or four times in the story, a convenient kryptonite moment shows up to make a conventional action scene a little more unique. It was actually annoying the last time it was used and it only exists there to give Amber Heard’s character one more thing to do during the story. The plot elements building a bond between father and daughter don’t go to the extremes of having her put in personal jeopardy by the villain, that was a change that I appreciated. The romantic interludes between attractive but older actors are told without the graphics that would turn younger viewers off, and the settings in Paris, make the film feel a little more familiar but still with an exotic locale. No one will remember this for long but it is enjoyable for as long as you sit in the theater.