Things start off in the Congo 10 years previously, and an international aid agency is trying to help out. Sean Penn and his crew provide security. Penn hooks up with Annie (Italian actress Jasmine Trinca). I overheard one critic say she was too young to play his girlfriend (she’s 34). Problem with that logic is Penn is dating Charlize Theron in real life (and she’s just a few years older than Trinca).
We see that a co-worker, played by Javier Bardem, has eyes for Annie. We also find out that along with security and humanitarian work that Penn is involved in…he also bumps people off. He makes a shot from a hotel window, taking out a government minister that’s stalling talks the mining contractors need. Yet just like in the movie I saw the other night (Run All Night), these hitmen always have a change of heart, feel guilty, and…they’re great to their families or girlfriends, so we’re supposed to root for them.
After that fatal gunshot, Penn has to leave the country immediately. This means he can’t kiss Annie goodbye, and of course, Bardem will try to seize the opportunity. It’s nice to see Bardem playing a drunk convincingly, and getting that horrible taste out of our mouths from the awful The Counselor last year. The screenwriters could’ve worked on more clever dialogue for Bardem and not made it so obvious that he might be trouble later.
Since the director is the guy that gave us the disappointing From Paris with Love and Taken, that means we have many clichés. One subplot involves Penn dealing with headaches. We realize this will mean at a crucial point, he’ll have a headache come on when he has his gun drawn on a bad guy.
Wait a second! Wasn’t that same thing done in the James Bond movie in which Bardem played the bad guy? And the filmmakers wonder why critics attack action pictures.
Penn ended up leaving all the killing behind, and goes full throttle into humanitarian work. He builds irrigation systems, while occasionally catching a wave on his board. Yes, Jeff Spicoli strikes again. Now, many are calling this a vanity project for Penn, just because he has the washboard abs and bulging arms. It wasn’t until we had the scene of him surfing that I thought that was the case.
When his character is trying to fix a machine, an attack happens. Penn realizes they were there to kill him, and he has to go back to his old boss and find out why. This means the audience is supposed to suspect every person he comes into contact with.
One of those guys is stage actor Mark Rylance, who along with the talented Idris Elba, seem wasted. We’d like a bit more back-story on these characters and better lines.
Ray Winstone, always a welcome sight as the heavy on screen, has a bit more to do as a buddy of Penn’s.
If this had starred Liam Neeson, I’d probably be giving it a bad review. Yet watching Penn play this part made it a nice change of pace. In one scene, he’s in bed trying to go back to sleep, but lovingly looking at Annie while snuggled under the covers. Another time he’s wanting answers, and sounding and looking like an older Jason Bourne. Again, we don’t usually see this from Penn, so it worked.
It may have had a weak storyline, especially when it came to the whole conspiracy angle, but the choreographed fights were entertaining. That doesn’t mean things didn’t get a little cheesy when we’re at the bullfights in the third act, but hey…you could do worse with an action picture.
This gets 3 stars out of 5.