SurvivorHow bad can it be?


It is natural to take a glance at the new thriller Survivor as a possibility for an evening’s entertainment and come away favorably disposed toward giving it a go. The cast has a slew of familiar names who have been involved in quality productions in the past and been rewarded for it. Survivor boasts an Oscar winner, a Golden Globe winner, a former James Bond, and a Quentin Tarantino resurrection project among the leads: Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Pierce Brosnan, and Robert Forster. The cherry on top is Milla Jovovich, who has single handedly made the Resident Evil series viable.

Behind the camera, you have director James McTeigue, whose filmography includes helming V is for Vendetta. The premise is squarely from the thriller playbook: special agent set up as suspect in terrorist act must go rogue and avoid capture while exposing the real terrorists. Add London and New York as locations along with a jolting prologue set in Afghanistan, and there are sufficient grounds to assume that Survivor is well worth your time.

And that is not the case unless you are a fan of unintentional laughter, wooden dialogue, and implausibility so deeply ingrained in the screenplay that it grates like fingernails on an old school chalkboard. And therein, we find the fatal flaw: Philip Shelby’s script is lousy. And when you have a bad script, and you add lazy directing with amateurish editing, you have a foolproof recipe for failure.

When we last checked in with Diplomatic Security at the American Embassy, Jack Bauer was beating them up and stealing their windbreakers in 24: Live Another Day. Reinforcements have arrived in the form of Kate Abbott (Jovovich), a security expert just in from Washington who speaks four languages, broke up a bomb plot against another Embassy all by herself, and has an ambiguous sexuality as seen in her relationships with an English artist (Genevieve O’Reilly) and her boss, Sam Parker (McDermott).

Kate is smart and tough because we are told she is smart and tough, even if she runs with arms flapping like she’s a duckling trying to take flight and holds a gun with a pinkie extended like it was cup of Earl Grey. She quickly discovers a plot to bring scientists to the United States to commit a wanton act of terror. No surprise there. In fact, no surprise anywhere in Survivor. You can see what’s coming in this one even if you’re watching it from another room.

The bad guys get wind of Kate and deploy The Watchmaker (Brosnan), the most feared assassin in the world, a man who has had so many reconstructive surgeries that no one knows what he looks like, a master of disguise, who just for the heck of it, will paste on a mustache and don horn rimmed glasses to throw off his adversaries. You start to question The Watchmaker’s credentials when he botches the assassination and every subsequent attempt, while uttering nonsensical one-line epitaphs.

Brosnan tries. He snarls, he menaces, he kills, he slides down a chandelier cord, but he’s hopeless. The entire cast gives its all, even the badly miscast Bassett, who makes one of the most unconvincing American Ambassadors ever on film. She is, at once, too glamorous and too substantive to be credible. In fact, the more you know about the U.S. government in general, and the Department of State, in particular, the less you will be able to accept what you see on the screen.

But nothing that comes before can prepare you for the finale of Survivor, which takes place on New Year’s Eve at midnight in Times Square, when Kate must get a taxi from the airport, identify the terrorist in the crowd of one million people, and then stop him.

Yeah, right – get a cab in New York on New Year’s Eve.




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