Bastille Day
2.5/5   US title: The Take
dir James Watkins
scr Andrew Baldwin
prd Bard Dorros, Fabrice Gianfermi, Steve Golin, David Kanter, Philippe Rousselet
with Idris Elba, Richard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly, Jose Garcia, Thierry Godard, Vincent Londez, Anatol Yusef, Aksel Ustun, Jerome Quiles, Theo Costa Marini, James Stewart
release UK 22.Apr.16, Fr 13.Jul.16,
US 18.Nov.16
16/France StudioCanal 1h32
Bastille Day
Happy July 14th! Madden and Elba

elba madden reilly
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Bastille Day Although this has a lot in common with most Bessonesque thrillers (shoot anyone even remotely shifty!), this action movie is grittier and visually messier, which works in its favour. And in leading man Idris Elba, the brawny machismo is underscored with a healthy dose of cynicism. But while it touches on big issues (terrorism, migration, capitalism), everything about this movie is wafer thin.

Briar (Elba) is a CIA operative known for his insubordination, so of course they assign him to the Paris bureau. And he arrives just as American pickpocket Michael (Madden) inadvertently steals a bomb from the hapless Zoe (Le Bon), girlfriend of an anti-fascist activist. The explosion kills four people, and police chief Victor (Garcia) and his bulldog sidekick Rafi (Godard) find CCTV images of Michael. But Briar manages to get one step ahead of them, discovers the truth and, working with Michael, goes after the bad guys, who are up to something seriously unexpected.

Well, unless you've seen lots of these movies, that is. It's fairly clear from the start what's going on, but the on-screen chaos keeps us happily distracted as the filmmakers pile on irrelevant distractions to make the story look twisty and characters seem shady. Elba glides effortlessly through this without breaking a sweat, even in the rock-em-sock-em action sequences (a brawl in a careening van is particularly bruising). And Madden matches Elba's beef with brains, albeit of the hunky-nerd variety.

Elba and Madden make such a terrific duo that the plot doesn't really matter. And the filmmakers clearly spotted the possibilities, so the movie frequently hints that this is a franchise in the making. While they get bits of back-story and actual personality, the women are only defined by their feistiness. And the villains are all murderous two-faced thugs, which is all the justification the screenwriter needs to kill off dozens of their goons, even if one dares to shows a glimmer of conscience.

Director Watkins keeps the action frantic and realistic: these people stumble during chases, have complex motives and make mistakes that cost innocent lives. Yet without Elba's and Madden's charisma, this would be blunt and unwatchable. They make it entertaining by hinting at deeper relevance. But the filmmakers can't be bothered to grapple with anything as textured as morality or political honesty. No, this is a movie about how Americans (played by Brits) save France! Hourra!

cert 15 themes, language, violence, nudity 22.Mar.16

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