Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Review: Stratton

Cert: 15 / 94 mins / Dir. Simon West / Trailer

Now. This was not a hate-watch. My star-rating sits above these words so the cat is already partially out of the bag at least, but I feel the need to emphasise at this early juncture that my inclusion of Stratton on a day's viewing in London was not undertaken with the intention of gleefully ripping it a new one. Okay, Simon West's film does not have a particularly wide release, but neither did A Ghost Story which I watched less than a month earlier in the self-same cinema*1. It's got Connie Nielsen from out of Wonder Woman in it, Gemma Chan from Humans and Derek Jacobi from I, Claudius. Y'know, actual actors. And sure it stars Dominic Cooper from Mamma Mia, but he's also Iron Man's dad, remember. No, when I sat down at West India Quay in the heart of London's regenerated Docklands area (part of which features in an Act III boat-chase, no less) on Saturday evening, my expectations were by no means high, but I genuinely wanted to find the good in this movie and enjoy it on a throwaway, surface level at least.

I did not bring negativity into Screen 2. The film director Simon West did that...

Stratton raises the spectre of a European criminal mastermind with a new type of bio-weapon, to be dispersed via a drone which is to be launched from the top deck of a red London bus, hurtling through Hyde Park*2. Only one man is up to the job of stopping the threat, Special Boat Service agent John Stratton, a gritty maverick who will complete a mission any damned way he sees fit just to get the result needed, before drinking whiskey alone on his houseboat and having occasional flashbacks to the fallen (and slightly less rugged) comrade he didn't manage to save*3.

I hear yer da's gone into the screenwriting business.

From the opening titles which feature animated text-kerning for no reason, to the cardboard-cutout characters and over-produced laptop readout screens, this movie has Supermarket Father's Day Gift Ideas Promo Display written all over it. In fact, at one point the villain (I'm not going to bother with character names, okay?) helpfully narrates the note which has been sent to his mole inside the SBS. We can see that the letter closes '…the penalty is death', but the accompanying monologue doesn't end with those words since the script has been tweaked in post-production. The makers have assumed their audience will be watching on a screen or resolution small enough for this to go unnoticed. Stratton is a £3 DVD on a portable TV, it can't even aspire to being a £5 Blu-ray in the living room.

Not quite sophisticated enough to be labelled mechanical, Duncan Falconer and Warren Davis' screenplay spends its 94 clock-punching minutes lumbering from one tedious set-piece to the next, the cast reading what appears to be placeholder dialogue, drafted in until plot details can be thought of. Nobody actually watches a film like this, they're just waiting for it to end. Dominic Cooper has neither the charm, gravitas nor grit to carry off the title-role, and by the time Derek Jacobi was wheeled back on to give our hero's childhood sob-story in the second act, I'd given up trying gain anything useful or entertaining.

Of course, when you're sitting trying to process Stratton, it's easy to think "the cast are better than this though, surely?". No. Connie Nielsen was in 3 Days To Kill, Gemma Chan lent her voice to the latest Transformers flick, Derek Jacobi sold his soul to Sony whilst pissing into the grave of Charles Dickens and, as I mentioned above, Dominic Cooper is at least partly to blame for the cinematic atrocity which is Mamma Mia!. No, everyone in Stratton knows exactly what they're doing, and they fully deserve to have it on their CV to remind people.

Much like Overdrive, you just know that Statham got the call for this. John Stratton isn't old enough to be pulling 'one last job' or coming out of self-exiled retirement, so Neeson is down at the first hurdle. There are probably more gunshots in this screenplay than words. That said, there are still far too many words. Over-directed to fuck like the action-thriller equivalent of an am-dram Gilbert & Sullivan production, Nielsen sounds constantly surprised at the low quality of her own dialogue.

But it's a 'Saturday night' thriller, right? Hmm. There wasn't a person under 40 or XX chromosome in the entire auditorium at West India Quay, and most of the occupants were alone*4. And even then, the target demographic for Stratton fucking hates Stratton. One guy in the same row as me ate popcorn for the first 25 minutes of the feature then walked out as soon as he'd finished. Another chap nearer the front left less than a minute after the final explosion, not even pretending to have the courtesy to see out the faux-reflective denouement tacked on to the back-end before the credits.

Typical dialogue exchange:

STRATTON: The charges are set. Why is there no-one here?
AGGY: This doesn't make any sense…
STRATTON: The intel on this mission is now officially bullshit!

Well I suppose it matches everything else, John...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Things that used to be on Bravo in the 00s, I imagine.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It's based on a novel.
That means this shit has actually been written TWICE, now

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well, when Tom Felton isn't the worst thing in a movie, he's probably found his niche..

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Try me.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard
Although it could have been drowned out by the voice in my head repeatedly asking "why are you still in this room?".

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: I have neither the time nor patience to IMDB the cast of Stratton on an individual basis looking for lucky bit-part actors, so let's go for Dominic Cooper playing Iron Man's dad in The First Avenger alongside stars Sam 'Windu' Jackson and Richard 'Naboo Fighter Pilot' Armitage.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although on that self-same day, I'd watched The Emoji Movie, again at that same cinema, and that was a hate-watch…
[ BACK ]

*2 In the most lacklustre cinematic climax you have ever seen. in. your. fucking. life. [ BACK ]

*3 Question, though: if Stratton is to be believed, why do so many Special Boat Service / Navy Seal operatives have beards? Yeah I know, "rough manly character" and that, but in a job where you routinely get wet (and with river/sea water, which will be filthy), how practical is facial hair going to be? I wish that was the only illogical thing about this movie… [ BACK ]

*4 I also fall into all of those brackets of course, I'm not pretending I'm any better. I'd chosen to watch Stratton, remember...
[ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment