“You Asked Me How Far I Would Go To Protect My Country. Whatever It Takes…”
It comes across wholly ironic that in a week in which we see the big budget release of Alien: Covenant, the sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and a sequel in which does not include the wholly reliable face of Noomi Rapace who declined to participate, that the Swedish born actress turns up in Unlocked, an action-packed spy thriller directed by Michael Apted, perhaps most famous for the Pierce Brosnan led The World is Not Enough, and the type of movie which belongs entirely within the realms of straight-to-DVD mediocrity. Of course, the coincidental notion of these two films being released side by side might not mean anything whatsoever, but in terms of further advancing the career of Rapace, it doesn’t exactly compute why such an esteemed actress chose Apted’s laughably poor action raspberry of a movie rather than the Ridley Scott led sci-fi epic, a movie which although is nowhere near a masterpiece in its’ own right, when put up against Unlocked comes across as some kind of 21st century work of art. With a cast which indeed includes the likes of Rapace, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas and Orlando Bloom, yes, Orlando Bloom, Unlocked does boast an incredibly strong payroll but with a narrative which is woeful as it is unintentionally hilarious, Apted’s latest is perhaps the least enjoyable time I’ve had with an action flick since, well, last week’s Sleepless. Not exactly a strong week for films.
After stumbling into a double crossing, trust bending, terrorism plot, Noomi Rapace’s shock-filled London based CIA agent is thrown violently back into the fold, shooting her way through building after building in order to establish the real play-makers behind a massive biological threat. Cue exposition galore, over-dramatic cameo performances and plot strands which edge of the side of cinematic malpractice, Apted’s real ace in the hole comes in the form of Orlando Bloom who appears half way through the action, conveying the tattooed, grungy, untrustworthy ex-jarhead who enters with a gold pass into the hall of worst cockney accents ever alongside Don Cheadle and Dick Van Dyke who are there to keep him company in the ways of mastering the voice of the East-End. Not only does Bloom win the award for worst cameo of the year so far, his character ultimately is entirely inconsequential to the extent that his existence is some form of contractual agreement to allow Bloom to garner a quick pay check after seemingly disappearing into thin air over the past few years. Unlocked is obviously awful, and although the narrative does threaten to entertain around the twenty minute mark, Apted fails to hold such attentive themes and constructs an action flick so poor that you pray for the likes of Gareth Evans to direct every action movie ever from now on.
Overall Score: 3/10
“We Need Someone Who Can Move Like Them, Fight Like Them. It’s Time To Be A Patriot…”
Adding to the long list of sequels which no one really wanted this week is the return of Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, the thrill-seeking sports enthusiast turned spy who uses his extremely silly background to kick some bad guys half to death in an even sillier b-movie esque manner, one which brought with it a wholly forgettable sequel featuring Ice Cube in the lead role with the only meaningful link between the two being the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson. With The Return of Xander Cage therefore, it comes with no surprise whatsoever that this third instalment is utter dross from beginning to end, saved ever so slightly from being a London Has Fallen style hate-fest by not being a film which sets out to offend anyone but instead suffers from a knuckle dragging screenplay which seems to serve no purpose except to inflate the ego of its’ leading star who takes on the challenge of being one of the film’s many producers as an excuse to be at the helm of a movie which will no doubt be regarded as one of the most self-aggrandising releases in recent history.
Although the film does manage to exhale a few cheesy laughs during the course of its’ agonisingly overstayed welcome, the ridiculously generic narrative forces itself along in order for Mr. Diesel to sleep with, flirt with and throw grenades at as many of the female cast as possible, a female cast which of course seems to be entirely populated by Playboy style models who seem to serve no purpose within the movie except to be degrading eye candy. Ironically however, aside from the mass onslaught of female extras, the movie does at least feature some kick-ass female leads in the form of Ruby Rose and Deepika Padukone who when aren’t shooting endless rounds of ammunition into bad guys, sink back into non-existence with sloppy and utterly cliched dialogue. As said previously, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage isn’t exactly a film which sets out to harm anyone, it just really sucks at what it does set out to accomplish from start to finish.