By Marshall Cearfoss
Dear audience, please allow me to be brutally frank with you. I expected this movie to be repulsive. I was expecting a boring film full of slow mo’, poorly-thought-out storyline, and Owen Wilson acting far out of his comfort zone. But, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it was a rather EXCITING film full of slow mo’, poorly thought out storyline, and Owen Wilson acting far out of his comfort zone.
Before we get into my unnecessarily cynical opinion of this actually somewhat decent film, I’ll debrief you a little bit on the storyline I so lovingly mentioned above. I must preface with the fact that pretty much everything in this movie was poorly explained, so I am warning you that my summary of this movie will be vague and will probably disappoint some.
The gist is that the Dwyer family — Jack, Annie, Lucy, and Beeze (played by Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Sterling Jerins, and Claire Geare, respectively) has had to move to Southeast Asia because of Jack’s job… Or lack thereof… Or promotion?… Something with his employment. Anyway, just after moving to this unnamed South Asian country (I’ve narrowed it down to either China, Laos, or Cambodia. I know this because they had to –SPOILER- over to –SPOILER- after they –SPOILER-ed from –SPOILER-) they found themselves in the battlegrounds of a war between the Asian government’s army and the rebels because of… Something? Again, they were never really clear on those details. So, the Dwyer clan has to fight their way out of the violence-ridden place that they moved to. Joining them is the no doubt coolest character of them all who simply is known by the name of “Hammond.” (played by the most definitely aging Pierce Brosnan)
*Sigh* Finally, the summary is over. Now for the cynicism that you all hate so dearly.
Ok, let’s first talk about the elephant in the room: Owen Wilson doing the single worst thing for Owen Wilson ever to do, which is to play in a non-comedic role. With that in mind, he actually did a far better job than I expected. While most of his acting was still a bit lackluster, he made it believable enough.
There were quite a few scenes that made me wonder if Michael Bay was somehow involved in the production of this film, because there were frequent healthy doses of entirely purposeless slow motion. There was also a disappointingly large amount of scenes where the background music score was NOT fitting to the setting at all. For example, they’d be simply riding down the street in a large taxi, eagerly anticipating their happy new life in South Asia- but the background music would sound as if Liam Neeson was sneakily scouring a drug lord’s boat in search for his daughter, and probably a few ounces of heroin.
Now, with no smooth segue from the last subject to this new one, I’m going to start mindlessly complaining about the clarity issues in this film. First, WHAT COUNTRY IS IT? Literally all I know is that it borders Vietnam. They at least could have picked a name out of a hat or something. Also, WHAT STARTED THIS WHOLE WAR THING? So, at the very beginning of the film, we see the Prime Minister of CountryWithNoName get assassinated, so we’re lead to believe that the assassination was what spurred this battle into existence. And, later on in the movie, Hammond (I’ll talk about him in a second) so kindly gives us a mouth full of clunky exposition, explaining what started all of this. Well, he claims that it actually has to do with Americans stealing their water or something? Or were taxing it. Or poisoning it. Or something like that. Yet another thing that the movie so politely left out in the open for our imaginations to tear apart. Anyway, with all of this explaining, there’s NO MENTION OF THE PRIME MINISTER’S ASSASSINATION. Or at least as far as I remember. Perhaps he subtly mentioned it, but it was definitely not enough to justify it being the FIRST THING WE SEE IN THE MOVIE.
Now for Hammond, himself. This was easily the best character in the entire film. He was funny, but mostly just a complete badass. Unrealistic? Yes. (like the scene where he snipes two guys’ heads off from roughly 300 yards away… With a pistol.) But a badass nonetheless. Pretty much my only complaint is that he was hardly in the film. If we’re being serious, he was only in the film for what seemed like a total of maybe ten-ish minutes. This movie could have been SO MUCH BETTER if he had a bigger part in it. If they would have recast HIM to be the father of the family, while simultaneously casting Owen Wilson to an entirely different film, this would have been a really good movie.
My last comment won’t actually be pure cynicism. (huzzah.)
Although I felt like Owen’s acting was fairly sub-par (but above par for him in a serious role), nearly all the other cast members were PHENOMENAL. Even the young actresses who played as Lucy and Beeze Dwyer. Most of the time, actors of the ages 16-ish and younger are either bad or really bad at acting. Sometimes they’re even atrocious. That said, these aspiring actresses stole the show with their performances.
There was one scene (the bathroom scene, for those of you who have seen the movie) where Lake Bell’s acting was oddly really spotty. But it was just that one scene. The rest of her acting was awe-inspiring.
Long story short, nearly everyone’s acting was about a 9.5, while poor Owen’s hovered near a 6.5.
In conclusion, I feel like, despite the plot-holes and overbearing slow motion cuts, this is a rather entertaining action movie that drips with suspense.
I’d like to thank Times Square Cinema for making this review possible.
When you come up to the ticket booth, walk in slow motion. Please.