In a London that’s sleek, doused in grays and hues of blue and encompassed by streets that are perpetually empty, Max Lewinsky, a police officer with a hot headed temperament, chases after criminal Jacob Sternwood in one of the most compelling opening scenes I’ve seen this year thus far. During an altercation between the two, Lewinsky is injured, and Sternwood manages an escape, sending Lewinsky into a spiral of pain and self-doubt.
Three years later and Sternwood is forced out of retirement after his son is involved in a heist gone wrong, and Lewinsky has his chance at redemption and closure. However, as the case begins to unravel, they’re forced to team up in order to survive a conspiracy amongst the city’s finest and government officials that runs deeper than their own shared animosity.
It’s a shame that the first ten minutes were so absurdly enjoyable, shot with an ease that would make one think director Eran Creevy’s filmography ran longer than one previous film. It’s difficult to believe that any of the shots are truly authentic, so crisp in their clarity that it would be easy to assume they were all digitally inputted.
It’s shame because once the “three years later” title card pops up, the energy and the interest both go for a bit of a tail spin.
It’s a film that relies heavily on style rather than substance. The shots of James McAvoy’s Lewinsky waking up, injecting some form of a pain medication into his leg and looking forlornly around his apartment is beautifully shot in that hyper stylized form, and McAvoy is an immensely talented actor but throughout the film there’s not justifiable reason that I or any other audience member would truly care for this character.
If this film hadn’t been graced with the phenomenal actors McAvoy and Mark Strong, this film may not even be worth a watch-or at least a “pay to see in theaters” one. McAvoy is beginning his turn in what may be one of his most packed years (Trance is his next film premiering April 5th), showcasing early his willingness to not only play the straight and narrow. As always he brings his typical roughish charm and also manages to convince us that he wouldn’t be one to get into a fight with. Strong is forever a wonderfully underused actor whose screen presence is intimidating. Getting the meatier of the two roles, it was a joy to see Strong inflict a depth to a character that on paper could have simply been an outline, rather than a fleshed out person.
The trouble is that the script doesn’t exactly allow for any other character moments other than one the actors manage to slip in. There’s no real motive for Sternwood to continue on his plan back into crime after the halfway mark, there’s a decision at the end that has no justifiable reasoning, and we never really know anything about the characters due to the limited dialogue we’re given in trade for the amount of gunfire we must suffer through.
The highlight inarguably were the interactions between the two leads, allowing a chemistry to develop in the limited screentime they shared that rather than entertaining, only made me wish they could be cast in another, more carefully put together film. The decision to have them team up two thirds of the movie in was the film’s biggest failing. Up until that point, the plot had been meandering, and when they join forces, for lack of a better term, the interest is almost instantaneously amplified.
This movie had potential–with the expert cinematography, energy McAvoy brought to the fight scenes, and the talent of the two leads– this could have been a hugely enjoyable film to bring moviegoers out of the dredge of the late winter months. Instead, it was a by-the-books action thriller that relied on slow motion capture and loud gun shots to eat the screen time. Action movies can be made that are both fun and intelligent–Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Layer Cake just to name two–but it takes more than what this movie was willing to give.