Synopsis – After being recruited by a group of unconventional thieves, renowned criminal Richard Pace finds himself caught up in an elaborate gold heist that promises to have far-reaching implications on his life and the lives of countless others.
My Take – If you ever wondered what it would be like to see Danny Ocean from the Ocean’s Trilogy reluctantly joining Dominic Toretto’s physics re-defining Fast & Furious team to pull off a heist, this latest from director Renny Harlin would be it.
Still known as the director who helmed Die Hard 2 (1990), for almost two decades director Harlin was a prominent figure in the action genre and the occasional horror, despite nearly losing his career after directing the infamous critical and box office bomb, Cutthroat Island, which also ended up bankrupting the production company Carolco Pictures back in 1995.
Though his films over the last decade have been flying mostly under the radar, a likely reason he has mostly stuck to directing Chinese productions, his first American production since 2014’s atrocious The Legend of Hercules, suddenly found itself in news owing to its negative press for appearing to frame the country Qatar as a terrorist state and as the sponsors of global terrorism. Press which probably earned the film a few more eye balls (like myself) than it would ever had.
Which is a good thing as this flighty film is practically refreshing, even though it offers nothing new, and contains elements that has been done many times before, and much better. Backed by decent pacing, the big budget glossy B film, is everything you would expect from a Renny Harlin film, with his trademark good-looking cast spouting off cheesy one-liners and offering mindless escapism to cover up the film’s shallow screenplay that is glittered with some breezy fight sequences and car chases.
Personally, the only reason I think the film exists is to promote Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates, which also hosted Furious 7 (2015), as a glamorous and extensive filming location, a fact which it gladly doubles down on at every given opportunity. Nevertheless, if you’re in the mood for a mindless action flick filled with genre tropes, or just a fan of the always reliable Pierce Brosnan (who is also an executive producer), then this one makes for a perfect pick.
The story follows Richard Pace (Pierce Brosnan), a notorious master thief who also has a reputation for being able to escape any prison, including the ones designed and run by Schultz (Tim Roth), a world-renowned prison architect, who has a personal vendetta against him. However his life takes an interesting turn when he is approached for a job by the Misfits, an unorthodox band of criminals comprising of Ringo (Nick Cannon), Violet (Jamie Chung), the Prince (Rami Jaber), and Wick (Mike Angelo), who vision themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, who steal from billionaires and big corporations and give the wealth to needy organizations.
And for their next venture they need Pace’s help in breaking into a secret vault located inside the most sophisticated maximum security prison on the planet, designed by Schultz, to steal the gold owned the terrorist group known as the Muslim Brotherhood lead by the dreaded Abu Hirawa (Mansoor Al Feeli). Not so they can keep the gold for themselves necessarily, but so they can get it out of the hands of terrorists.
While Pace is reluctant at first, but upon finding out that Hope (Hermione Corfield), his estranged daughter is also part of the Misfits operation, he agrees. Naturally, the heist will be complicated, feature misdirection aplenty, and will require the team to ride into the Middle East based city on camels rather than in cars on a road.
The film lives and dies by its style, as the narrative is quite simple and the stakes practically nonexistent, with the lavish landscapes and expensive looking state of everything in Abu Dhabi making the locations interesting. Combining that with well-staged action, heist sequences, and comedy, it requires viewers to suspend belief and logic to enjoy the thrills and tense moments along the way. Especially considering how the protagonists, despite being in an alien city, manage to always ahead of everybody on their tail, from Schultz, the police and the terrorists.
There are chases, fights, massive explosions, and some sharp trickery, all of which director Harlin manages to piece together well enough to ensure that the protagonists will without a doubt pull off the heist and prevent whatever evil plot Abu Hirawa they had planned. And yes, like most reviews have pointed out, it unapologetically mocks Middle Eastern accents, which may be unfunny to people living outside the U.A.E. but familiar to its residents (like myself). A surprising inclusion considering how the film is majorly backed by Abu Dhabi based producers.
Nevertheless, in the end the film all amounts to the equivalent of watching a cast vacation, mainly as the screenplay by Robert Henny and Kurt Wimmer is mostly appalling and underwritten, but provides enough of a framework on which to hang just enough interesting and colorful tapestry to keep us engaged. And as always, Pierce Brosnan’s effortless cool and charm go a long way toward making the film entertaining.
Brosnan’s screen persona, charisma, suaveness and style to perfection adheres to the fact that he is a true film star who can take any material and add his own brand charisma. He also shares a likable chemistry with Hermione Corfield who brings her own set emotion to the role.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said about an actor of Tim Roth‘s caliber, who is barely there and isn’t allowed to contribute much in his limited screen time. Jamie Chung makes Violet the most interesting and most potentially dangerous character in the film, while Rami Jaber keeps it easy. Nick Cannon has his moments, but Mike Angelo is just wasted. U.A.E actors Rik Aby excels in his hilarious role, while Mansoor Al Feeli only gets small opportunities to show the terror of his character. On the whole, ‘The Misfits’ is an unapologetic silly action comedy that manages to provide mindless entertainment.
Directed – Renny Harlin
Rated – R
Run Time – 94 minutes