I’m old enough to remember a time when the films of Renny Harlin were actually played on the big screen: Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Deep Blue Sea—the man was unstoppable, except he wasn’t. Harlin never stopped working, but for some reason, the world just zipped past him, and try as I might, I’ve had a tough time keeping up with some of his more recent work. However, his latest work does feel like an actual Renny Harlin movie, complete with the good-looking cast spouting off smarmy one-liners and a shallow screenplay that is helped, but not fixed, by well-crafted action set pieces.
Filling in the gap in the movie-release schedule left by no new James Bond movie for several more months, The Misfits centers on notorious master thief Richard Pace (Pierce Brosnan), who also has a reputation for being able to escape any prison, as is evidenced in the beginning of the movie when he manages to evade even world-renowned prison architect Schultz (Tim Roth). Pace not only seems to know how to get out of any enclosure, but he’s able to anticipate what those chasing him are going to think he’s done, and then he does something else. Classic Pace.
After one of his daring escapes, he is scooped up by a group of criminals who fancy themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods—they steal from billionaires and big corporations and give the wealth to needy organizations. They need Pace’s help in breaking into a secret vault located inside the most sophisticated maximum security prison on the planet, located in Abu Dhabi, and taking cash that the prison’s designer (yes, it’s Schultz) is secretly funneling to a terrorist operation. Naturally, the heist will be complicated, feature misdirection aplenty, and require the team to ride into Abu Dhabi on camels rather than in cars on a road.
At first, Pace refuses because he doesn’t get to keep the money, but eventually his conscience gets the best of him (it helps that his daughter Hope, played by Hermione Corfield, is part of the team). The rest of the eclectic Misfits include leader Ringo and resident “comedian” (Nick Cannon), Violet (Jamie Chung), the Prince (Rami Jaber), and Wick (Mike Angelo), all of whom are given one or two distinguishing characteristics and rely on the actors to hopefully infuse their characters with something resembling personality. Chung probably does this better than anyone, making Violet the most interesting and potentially dangerous in the story.
The lavish landscapes and expensive everything of Abu Dhabi at least make the locations interesting even when the movie isn’t. Honestly, if Nick Cannon weren’t in this movie, I’d probably give it at least an extra half star, but he is so grating and unfunny that I found myself grinding my teeth every time he walked on the screen. Brosnan’s effortless cool and charm go a long way toward making the film tolerable. Combining that with well-staged action, heist practices, and other elements that require viewers to have a clear idea of exactly how things are going down help make key aspects of The Misfits actually come together and provide a few thrills and tense moments along the way. There are chases, fights, massive explosions, and some sharp trickery, all of which Harlin manages to piece together well enough to make this a decent place holder until the real action movies start opening more regularly, and honestly, I’ll take that without much complaint. As alluded to earlier, the screenplay by Robert Henny and Kurt Wimmer is mostly appalling and underwritten, but it provides enough of a framework on which to hang just enough interesting and colorful tapestry that maybe you won’t notice how soulless The Misfits can be sometimes.
The film is now playing in select theaters.
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