Orange Wednesday: Triple Frontier (2019), Hotel Artemis (2018) and Special Correspondents (2016)

Triple Frontier

Every Wednesday, TMINE reviews two movies and infringes a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick

Ah, well. It was good while it lasted, but I’ve failed you this week, gentle reader. Despite the headline, I only managed to watch one full movie this week. I tried to watch a second one, but it was so, so bad, so I gave up. So I found a replacement… and it was so, so bad, so I gave up. And then I ran out of time.

Can you guess which I made it all the way through of these:

  • Triple Frontier (2019) – a group of ex-special forces soldiers steal a stash of cash from a Colombian drug dealer, but their escape doesn’t quite go according to plan
  • Hotel Artemis (2018) – Jodie Foster runs a hotel-cum-hospital for criminals in a near dystopian future
  • Special Correspondents (2016) – Ricky Gervais and Eric Bana create fake news

Tricky, isn’t it? I blame myself.

Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier (2019)

DEA agent Oscar Isaac is down in Colombia trying to catch a drug dealer when he learns from his informant-girlfriend the location of both the dealer and his cash. Frustrated by local corruption, he decides he’d be better off getting some of his old buddies together to steal the cash from the dealer. All seems to be going well, until they run into some problems in their getaway. Will they make it back to the US with the cash?

Directed and co-written by JC Chandor (Margin Call), there’s a good movie here, struggling to get out. What that movie is, is a good question. It’s certainly got good production values, fabulous locations and a top notch cast: Isaac, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam
and Garrett Hedlund (bet you’d forgotten about him, right?). But otherwise, it sits in a weird position, never deciding what it wants to be: a hymn to the praises of the unsung heroes of the special forces, a morality play about the dangers of greed, a simple heist movie or something else.

Initially, everything feels a touch Narcos, as Isaac does his thing and even gets to speak Spanish for a change (Pascal gets to do likewise, but obviously has done his Narcos duty already). Then there’s a modicum of the Ocean’s 11 to proceedings when Isaac assembles his crew for the heist and reveals his cunning plan. The heist takes place and then it’s Reservoir Dogs. And then there’s a downbeat ending in which everyone left standing basically decides none of it was worth it.

There’s twists you don’t see coming and the glossiness of the whole thing makes you think it’s got a point to it, in the same way Three Kings did. But other than “don’t be underprepared or be too greedy when you’re stealing from a drugs baron”, I’m not sure what that point is.

All that aside, it’s also quite dull. Firefights are infrequent, people spend long periods of time sitting around not doing anything and there’s never really any sparkly dialogue to make those times fly by. Plus they kill a donkey. They lost me at that point.

Hotel Artemis

Hotel Artemis (2018)

99p on iTunes for a movie starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Zachary Quinto, Dave Bautista and Sofia Boutella? Bargain.

I thought.

It’s all supposed to be set in the near future, where water has been privatised and sci-fi police are out and about killing rioters in LA who’d quite like to have water. Criminals who are members of the ‘Hotel Artemis’ are able to get patched by nurse Jodie Foster, using sci-fi tech including nanites, assuming they’re not too far gone. And then they get to stay a bit while they recover.

Sterling K Brown is one such crim who checks his brother into the hotel when they get shot at during a bank robbery. Unfortunately, Quinto, the son of the hotel’s proprietor (Goldblum), wants to break the hotel’s rules and he’s prepared to do what it takes to get into the hotel, despite Foster’s insistence to the contrary.

You can see why a lot of the actors signed up to this. Foster’s clearly enjoying herself delivering lines like she’s on speed, but everyone else is clearly more interested in the series of two-handers that the script passes them. Unfortunately, director Drew Pearce seems to have been stuck in No Heroics mode, rather than Iron Man 3 mode, when he wrote the script. That means, try as they might, Brown et al are chewing on cardboard, rather than anything especially nourishing, and Pearce’s attempts to recreate the magic of John Wick‘s Continental Hotel don’t have a fraction of the style.

It looks quite nice, it has a nice cast, but I couldn’t get more than 40 minutes through it before I was bored. I was so bored, I didn’t even hang around for Jeff Goldblum to show up. Can you imagine?

Special Correspondents

Special Correspondents (2016)

Having discovered that Ricky Gervais’ latest effort, After Life, ain’t that bad, I thought I’d give some of his more recent work a second chance. How about a Netflix original movie that he wrote and directed, based on a French comedy Envoyés très spéciaux?

Surely he couldn’t go too far wrong, there?

Ah, he could.

Here, Eric Bana is a top local radio journalist and Gervais is his sound engineer. After annoying their managers, they’re posted to cover an uprising in Ecuador. Unfortunately, do to Gervais’ marital issues, they end up not being able to go to Ecuador so pretend to cover the entire war while actually being just across the road from their own radio station. Will they be found out?

To be fair to Gervais, you can’t really relocate the French original’s scenario – top national radio reporter – to the US and for it to still work. No national radio stations, are there (beyond Sirius, maybe), and certainly none that would send foreign correspondents to cover a war (or could afford to). ‘Top local radio reporter’ sounds even stupider for the US, too. And the idea that the somewhat pretty Bana – prettier than Gerard Lavin, certainly – would choose radio over television as a career is implausible.

So even by choosing that scenario, Gervais was on a hiding to nothing. But he could at least have tried to make it funny.

Unfortunately, despite having not only Bana, but Vera Farmiga and Kelly MacDonald in the cast, even these a-listers can’t actually make the jokeless experience sing. Farmiga tries her best and Bana is smoothness personified, but they might as well have been reading out the place settings for a funeral for all their efforts.

I didn’t even get as far as the airport before giving up. To be fair, that’s where The Big Idea kicks in, so I might have missed “the funny stuff”, but the journey getting there really didn’t feel worth it.

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