What strange melange is this? We open in Copenhagen in what seems like a routine policier of the Scandi-noir kind. Should square-jawed cop Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) stay with his badly-wounded partner Lars (Søren Malling) or chase the assailant, Tarzi (Eriq Ebouaney)? He opts for the chase, across pantile rooftops and at one point clings precariously to creaking guttering (a direct lift from Hitchcock’s Vertigo). Then things get dark. Tarzi is a Libyan refugee vigilante seeking the Isis controller Al-Din (Mohammed Azaay) who killed his father. He is forced to work in cahoots with a CIA officer (Guy Pearce) who says Tarzi’s family is in danger and he’ll never see his children again unless he co-operates.
Meantime, Christian and his female associate Alex (Carice van Houten) have gone rogue and are travelling across Europe to find Lars’ killer. The action moves to Brussels and to a Hitchcockian set piece finale in a Spanish bullring with a drone-mounted camera acting as deus ex machina. They want to catch the bad guy and outfox those planning assorted Isis atrocities that will be filmed and put online. Domino has some spectacularly nasty bloodletting.
This international co-production has the feel of a miniseries like Homeland that’s been badly edited down for theatrical release. There is an insistent musical score that never seems to let up. The acting is passable and the cinematography (Jose Luis Alcaine) lush. So why’s it so very disappointing? It’s partly a flaccid script studded with any number of worn-out clichés. There’s an overcomplicated narrative that is thuddingly disjointed. Even the movie’s title seems as if no one could be bothered to think of anything better. The condensing of heavy moral and political complexities into a shoot-em-up drama and served up as popcorn fodder is questionable. The jihadi terrorist baddies in suicide vests leave a distinctly bad taste.
Misanthropy is a De Palma specialité de la Maison and it’s here in spades. It’s difficult to feel anything much for any of the characters. There’s little nuance in anyone’s motivation or humanity (or lack of it). To call the characters cyphers is to make them sound more fully formed than they are.
Available on DVD and digital HD from Mon 5 Aug 2019