Sometimes I learn not to judge a film based on reviews from critics or even friends and co-workers. Usually, overwhelmingly negative or positive reviews are a fairly good indicator of whether I will like or dislike a movie but there are always exceptions and those that slip through the cracks. I like all of the actors involved in this production so that was the first sign that I might actually enjoy the film. However, I could say the same thing about that Batman debacle and I didn’t end up enjoying that one a whole lot. However, this reminded me somewhat of Self/Less both in plot, the fact that Ryan Reynolds was in a similar role and that it was a film I expected nothing from but ended up enjoying quite a bit.
Like I said, the plot is somewhat similar to Self/Less (for the eight people that saw that film). A CIA operative (Ryan Reynolds) is killed in the line of duty by a terrorist that he is in pursuit of and thus the organization turns to a radical idea to figure out what happened. They employ a doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) who has the ability to transfer brainwaves onto another subject so that the other person can see the deceased one’s thoughts, memories, and even gains a bit of their personality. That subject is Jericho (Kevin Costner), a ruthless psychopath convict who had a frontal lobe injury as a child and therefore has no social abilities whatsoever; he can not tell if he is doing anything wrong because he does not know right from wrong. That plan goes about as well as you’d expect as Jericho goes on the run trying to find a bag of money while the CIA continues their search for this terrorist who threatens the world with nuclear war.
It sounds ridiculous, yes? That’s because it most certainly is ridiculous. The film treats the whole plot in a serious manner though and because of the heavyweight actors on display, it is easy to buy into the premise and accept most of what is going on as realistic. First things first: you have to buy this insane brainwaves thing as typical Movie Science. Basically, they say a lot of mumbo-jumbo and you just have to accept it and move forward. This mumbo-jumbo is also being said by Tommy Lee Jones, which helps because the man lends a lot of gravitas to any role he performs in whether the movie is bad or good. The film is also fairly fast-paced and I never really felt its nearly 2-hour runtime.
The acting is decent across the board with one or two real highlights. Kevin Costner is one of those highlights. Costner can play a good guy really well but it is a whole lot of fun to see him cut loose and play a villain like he does here for most of the movie until he kinda seeps into being a hero as Reynolds’ emotions begin to make him show emotion and become apologetic at times. Costner pulls it off; he’s a pro. Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t have a lot of screen time but like I previously mentioned, he has the gravitas and his somber performance is exactly what is required for his role as the kindly doctor. Gal Gadot (yes, Wonder Woman) is going to quickly make a name for herself if she keeps acting like this as she pulls out another great performance. Gadot does a lot of subtle things with her performance so even when she is rockin’ it in a scene it never feels like she’s overtaking it or TRYING to steal the scene. Gary Oldman does as well as Gary Oldman usually does. I love the guy and he can do no wrong. Ryan Reynolds is barely in the movie but we get a fine charismatic performance from him in his limited screentime. Rounding out the cast are Jordi Molla and Michael Pitt as the villains (more or less) and they are both fine.
What else can I say? If you are looking for an entertaining action movie with an interesting premise, great actors and a decent script then you should check this out; it’s a pleasant surprise.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)