Randy Couture, Craig Fairbrass, Vinny Jones, Tiffany DuPont, Dominick Purcell
US DVD: 31 Jul 2012
Former UFC champion Randy Couture continues his effort to segue from mixed-martial arts fighting into acting, following a well-worn path trod by numerous athletes over the decades. High-profile appearances in both “Expendables” films has led to this starring attempt, but even in a direct-to-rental title he faces a tough challenge. While joining a huge cast of action-stars means his limitations are easily overshadowed and diluted by expensive special-effects, here Couture suffers from both the task of having to carry most of the picture himself and from his lack of talent becoming stark due to the micro-budget production.
That discount description is not exaggeration. An early gunfight scene shows numerous victims reeling back as they absorb gun fire and the blood spray from the bullet impact is actually animated. You realize the challenge ahead of yourself as a viewer once you understand the production could not afford squibs for these scenes. This means the performers have to provide most of the reason for people to watch, but Couture and company play things in such a serene fashion that after a while you begin feeling like the pace should pick up soon; and by then you realize that the titular hijacking has already taken place. Randy in particular brings so little energy to his performance that you would be understood for thinking he did a full day of fight training before arriving fatigued to the set.
Right from the start the challenge is put up for us to keep watching. A large dose of backstory that could fill a cargo hold is delivered via a long series of television news reports. A number of them detail some of the activities of a terrorist group known as The Tribe, and then we have to sit through another string of reports about the company known as Lieb Industries, and its continuing issues with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Finally the last dispatch announces a large corporate event in Paris which corporate titan Bruce Lieb will be attending, kicking off our film.
For unknown reasons the CIA and British Intelligence have agents in tuxedos at the affair, and working nearby is federal agent Paul Ross (Couture). Vinny Jones (Juggernaut, X-Men: The Last Stand) lends the most star power here as a British agent and Ross’ friend, yet despite being portrayed in the promotional material as engaged in a firefight aboard a plane Jones is actually killed off before we even take to the skies. This is Couture’s film from here on, and he does little to push the affair forward.
As the other plot details are being off-loaded we also learn Paul Ross is grumbling about the recent end of his engagement to Olivia (Tiffany DuPont), a PR rep who just happens to be in Paris to work for the Lieb party. The script then contorts to bring everyone together on board Lieb’s private jumbo jet and soon everyone is in place for the titular hijacking. The balance of this film is supposed to be a rollicking action adventure, but director/writer/producer Brandon Nutt fails at the entire enterprise. Not only does he fail to coax a performance from his kick-boxing lead actor but the entire cast refuses to act as if anything approaching excitement transpires. A plane has been taken over and nobody behaves with the least bit of energy; there is no panicked reaction, no raising of voices, and I cannot recall a single scene where anyone, from the hijackers to the pilots to the hostages, behaves with any sense of urgency to the reality of a mid-air transcontinental hijacking taking place.
As the (yawn) intrigue drags on in a variety of drab sets we eventually get to a conclusion that was essentially telegraphed in those news montages at the very start, and in the end we are left with a sense that we just watched an entire film that never actually began. Those early scenes of calm character establishment turn out to be the pace of this entire enterprise. The ad copy promised us “An explosive thriller that takes action to whole new heights!” The result was more like riding on a commuter flight and having a commodities broker fill in the 90 minutes of airtime with tales of his business activities. It left me feeling hijacked.
There are no extras on the disc.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.
// Short Ends and Leader
"Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a darkly funny and philosophical cyberpunk locked-room thriller that tangles with the greatest sci-fi puzzle: What does it mean to be human?READ the article