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dir-scr Aram Rappaport
prd Hilary Shor, Aaron Becker, Aram Rappaport
with Frank Grillo, Minnie Driver, AnnaSophia Robb, Ed Westwick, Mary McCormack, Christopher McDonald, Dianna Agron, John Leguizamo, Maggie Q, Jim Ortlieb, Tim O'Leary, Bob Telford
release US 13.Jan.17
Family ties: Driver and Grillo
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Writer-director Aram Rappaport works diligently to develop a sense of suspense in this internet-based thriller about experts trying to foil an imminent cyberattack. It's a timely idea, and the ensemble cast is unusually high-powered for the rather cheesy production style. But the plot is also frustratingly simplistic, never developing much suspense or resonance.
After online terrorists declare that they are planning to bring down Wall Street, Treasury Secretary Sarah (McCormack) consults fallen financial wizard Guy (Grillo). He agrees to help in exchange for immunity from prosecution for his dodgy hacking activities. His team includes his angry wife Shannon (Driver) and their bright, terminally ill daughter Creason (Robb), plus Creason's computer-expert boyfriend Ben (Westwick), the shark-like Amelia (Agron), disabled programming guru George (Leguizamo) and his nurse Hilary (Q). But there are other forces at work here that are trying to game the system.
The film has a pulsing electronic score that attempts to add a sense of growing suspense but only maintains the tone of a corny TV movie. And it continues right through scenes that were clearly shot to be thoughtful or comical. The script feels oddly incomplete, finished in post-production with whizzy editing trickery and random on-screen captions. Much of the dialog centres on the dodgy earlier interaction between these people, including all kinds of soap-style personal grudges, relationship issues, past peccadillos and clashes that make it impossible to believe they could ever work as a team.
What makes this worth watching is the up-for-it cast, which is packed with actors who know how to invest subtext even in the most superficial moments. It's great to see Grillo play against-type as a down-to-earth man taking on the system, and his interaction with Driver is enjoyably tetchy. Other actors have a bigger struggle to inject personality into their stock roles: Westwick's token beefcake, Robb's dying girl, McCormack's harried official, Agron's unapologetic vamp, Leguizamo's sardonic stroke patient, McDonald's shady government official.
All of these actors are solid enough to provide some entertainment as the plot slides into murky financial mayhem and dull triple-whammy revelations. There are much bigger issues in this premise, from the precarious nature of the banking system to government manipulation to uncontrolled greed. But Rappaport never grapples with these issues, focussing instead on cheaper thrills. Which is an especially risky proposition when your movie hinges on dull conversations about money and even duller number-filled computer screens. And if the final-act rant is corny and sentimentalised, at least it's satisfying.
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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