This action dud from the ever inconsistent Renny Harlin is so tedious you’ll struggle to keep your spirit level. Falling somewhere between Bond, Bourne, and Jack Reacher, without getting close to the quality of any of them, The Bricklayer sadly ranks closer to Cutthroat Island and Exorcist: The Beginning in the Harlin filmography than Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight. The foundations for a decent beat-em-up are there, and getting the likes of Aaron Eckhart, Clifton Collins Jr. and Tim Blake Nelson involved is hardly rough casting, but everything about the film gives the impression of being completed by cowboys.
A rogue element has been bumping off journalists who have been openly critical of US foreign policy, and leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that lead back to the CIA. Obviously, the CIA are horrified that anyone would think that most august and benevolent of institutions were assassinating people. After figuring out the culprit is Victor Radek (Collins), a former agent presumed dead at the hands of former colleague and expert trowel-wielder Steve Vail (Eckhart). The panicky top brass enlist the ‘retired’ brickie to jet out to picturesque Thessaloniki in search of the assassin, with handler Kate Bannon (Nina Dobrev) in tow.
The Bricklayer is the third one man army Sky Original movie released in 2024 already after One More Shot and The Beekeeper and it’s easily the least enjoyable of the three. It’s a throwback to the type of action films that proliferated the landscape in the 90s. That’s not a bad thing in itself – hell, Harlin made some of them – but it completely lacks a sense of fun and wallows in old tropes that should have been left in the past. Chief among these is the frequent ineptitude of Dobrev’s sidekick, reduced way too often to a damsel in distress. The fim wouldn’t lose any narrative momentum if Kate wasn’t included at all. To be fair, it would hardly lose much if it was missing Eckhart’s involvement. It’s not clear why the previously dependable Eckhart’s star has waned in recent years, but The Bricklayer does his reputation as a leading man no favours. With a horrible performatively macho sub-Batman rasp that sounds like he’s gargling Artex, our titular hod botherer is aggressively one-note throughout.
Even the action scenes are as a flat as the characterisation. The frequent physical interludes are, at best, competent, but that’s the least you would expect from a filmmaker with Harlin’s filmography. It all feels strangely rote in a way that can’t be blamed on any deficiencies of budget. Thessaloniki looks nice though; at least something in this film was built to last. If only there was anything else beside Matti Eerikainen’s attractive cinematography to grab onto. There’s a decent concept that could be built on from the creative team and the solid casting, but The Bricklayer crumbles in the memory almost as you watch it.
Available on Sky Movies from Fri 9 Feb 2024