Despite there being a few new movies at the cinema worth watching, I’ve been at home a bit, saving cash because of the August holidays. As a result, I’ve learnt to appreciate the value of free movies on Netflix.
So this week’s Orange Thursday duo are a couple of Netflix Originals:
- Point Blank (2019): Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie reunite for an action movie remake, but maybe not of the Point Blank you were expecting
- The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019): Chris Evans and a motley bunch of fellow Israeli spies accidentally set up a hotel in Africa to liberate Ethiopian refugees, in a movie based on a very odd true story
The observant will notice that all three of those men starred in Captain America: Winter Soldier. I don’t know if that was a deliberate choice by Netflix, but it’s probably quite hard now to find an actor who hasn’t been in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.
Reviews after the jump.
Point Blank (2019)
To save his pregnant wife, an emergency room nurse unwillingly partners with an injured murder suspect in a race against time and renegade cops.
Point Blank (1967) is one of director John Boorman and star Lee Marvin’s best films. A gritty, sometimes surreal revenge noir, it’s a real classic of the genre.
It’s already been ineptly remade once as Payback (1999), with Mel Gibson, so you’ll be glad to hear that Netflix’s Point Blank doesn’t attempt to retread in the original’s footsteps – because it’s actually a remake of the completely different French thriller Point Blank (2010).
However, I guess it’s the fate of every original Point Blank to have an inept remake, since Netflix’s latest effort is decidedly rubbish – although not as rubbish as it could have been, I guess.
The 2019 version follows more or less the same set-up as the original, with Mackie saving Grillo’s life, being forced to rescue him by Grillo’s brother (Demons‘ Christian Cooke) and the two of them then going on the run to escape the cops (primarily Code Black‘s Marcia Gay Harden).
But in the hands of director Joe Lynch, it loses all punch. The script is decent enough and occasionally funny, as you might expect of anything with Mackie in it, but even Grillo gets to be humorous. There’s also an odd segment involving gangster Markice Moore (Snowfall), whose dedication to crime seems vastly outweighed by his dedication to movies, particularly the works of William Friedkin.
However, all sense of style is lost in translation and there’s none of the adrenaline rush of the original. The relocation to LA apparently precludes a Metro chase scene, so it’s all lukewarm car chases instead.
To be honest, it feels less comedic action movie, more slightly pacy comedy movie.
Mackie’s giving it his all, while Grillo is going through the motions with an unchallenging role that gives him little to get his teeth into and which he’s done countless times before. Point Blank‘s mildly diverting but it really needed a much better director to give it some pep.
The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
Kabede Bimro, an Ethiopian Jew, works with the Israeli Mossad agent Ari Levinson to evacuate Jewish-Ethiopian refugees to Israel. Ari realises that his ability to operate in Ethopia would be improved if he had a cover activity that would give him a reason for having a building and vehicles.
He proposes to Israeli intelligence officer Ethan Levin a plan that would allow him to evacuate significantly more refugees: rent the Red Sea Diving Resort, an abandoned Sudanese coastal hotel, and run it as a front to facilitate moving refugees out of the country. The unorthodox plan is reluctantly approved, and Ari recruits his former Mossad colleagues Rachel Reiter, Jake Wolf, Max Rose, and Sammy Navon to assist him.
You might think this was an open goal. Argo showed us what bonkers plans spies came up with in the 70s for covers and here’s the best of the lot: spies running a hotel! On top of that, you have actual Israeli Gideon Raff (Prisoners of Wars) on scripting duty and America’s own Chris Evans as the lead, with The Wire‘s Michael K Williams in support. What could go wrong?
It’s more a case of ‘what could go right?’ instead. That central idea, which could have been milked for hours of entertainment, gets smashed into a single montage scene (more or less), leaving the rest of the movie to be a tiresome, clichéd tale of Evans’ self-sacrifice. Oh look at him come to blows with his best friend over his lack of proper preparation and planning! Look at him cry as his wife leaves him for never being there! Look at him deal with corruption and sociopathic generals!
Were that the worst of it, maybe it would still have been watchable. Yet we have Raff’s somewhat ‘interesting’ ideas about other cultures to deal with. You may recall that he was dumped from Syrian-parallel Tyrant, a series he himself created, after just the first episode. We can but guess why, but here, we experience his take on Sudan, which more or less stands as a proxy for every single African country (they’re all corrupt, you know). We also get his views on German tourists (fat comedy Nazis). It’s not edifying, I can tell you.
At the same time, he seems incapable of accepting that we don’t need things like Mossad explained to us and that we can probably guess that the Israeli marines, Shayetet 13, isn’t actually called “Navy Seals”. It all leads to some incredibly clunky dialogue.
Evans can do better, but here alternates between bright and breezy and terribly, terribly earnest, without many shades in between. He does at least seem to be having a great time of things. Similarly, Ben Kingsley, deploying one of his many recent “What is that exactly?” accents (cf Perpetual Grace LTD), is clearly having a great time of his pay cheque and location filming.
Indeed, it’s only really Haley Bennett’s lone female spy who excels among the cast, handling action scenes and near-perfect German dialogue with equal aplomb.
That leaves us with a slightly jingoistic, only mildly thrilling, only occasionally amusing, by-the-numbers drama that entirely squanders a great central idea. What a waste.