Thursday, February 11, 2016

Momentum (2015)

Alex Farraday (Olga Kurylenko) is helping out her former boyfriend with a little bank robbery on demand. It’s the sort of affair where one dresses in what we in the business call space ninja suits. Despite Alex being really good at penetration (yes, that’s what the film will later tell us, and not with a joking face on), things don’t go too well: one of the other bank robbers loses control so much she rather shoots him than let him kill an innocent. To add insult to injury she loses her mask during the altercation.

Afterwards, when our heroine is trying to relax a little before she can flee the country with her own little sack full of diamonds, things go from bad to worse. Turns out, the evil US senator (Morgan Freeman with a screen time of at least three minutes) who hired them wasn’t actually interested in diamonds or money so much as in a little USB drive that contains information he’d really rather not see going public. He’s also little interested in having loose ends, so he sends out evil Mr. Washington (James Purefoy overacting rip-roaringly and assuming an accent that might supposed to be German or Afrikaans or Dutch or Elvish) and his multi-racial, gender-progressive gang of henchpeople to cut them off.

Boyfriend doesn’t survive the night, but Alex – no surprise with her action movie protagonist name – makes Washington’s business very, very difficult. Turns out she isn’t just good at getting into places but has superior ass-kicking powers as well as a penchant for improbable plans that somehow work against all sanity and logic.

Basically, Stephen S. Campanelli’s Momentum already had me at least half way at Olga Kurylenko and James Purefoy, both the sort of somewhat luckless actors who’ll appear in just about anything and always put their game faces on – no matter if they are in a mid-level action movie like this one or a mid-brow costume drama. As a viewer of much crap, I appreciate actors who do get their hands dirty to make my life that much more enjoyable.

In Momentum’s particular case, Purefoy goes the well-worn route of portraying his bad guy exaltedly insane to the border of high silliness I generally hope for from the big bad in my silly action movies, while Kurylenko once again demonstrates she makes for a pretty fun action heroine and can act other emotional states than angry and determined your typical male action movie star will have his troubles with (I love my Jean-Claudes, and Dolphs and so on, but you gotta be realistic). Fortunately, the film uses that ability rather sparingly and doesn’t fall into the horrid mistake of making an action movie with a female lead “more relatable” by having her cry a lot, because girls are supposed to be like that.

In fact, and to my delight, Momentum doesn’t play up Kurylenko’s gender at all but just – correctly – assumes it’s normal for a female character to go through the same action movie hero tropes and plot beats a male character would have to. Why, the film even gets away with a bit of child protecting business without drawing on the typical and often very annoying mythical “motherly feelings” supposedly slumbering in all of them thar wimmin.

When it comes to the action, Campanelli – and very rightly so – bets on variety, including the by now traditional cat and mouse game in a hotel, car chases, wild shoot-outs and some rather fine close combat, as well as scenes in classic thriller and suspense tradition (though louder) with a tiny bit of the conspiracy thriller for added flavour. Campanelli’s direction thankfully eschews the flash cut and whoosh zoom aesthetic that has ruined many a US action film over the last two decades or so. The action is fast, it’s professionally staged and generally exciting (if not breath-taking), and thanks to Campanelli’s efforts, you can actually see much of the stunt work. The man’s no Isaac Florentine, obviously, but he clearly knows what he’s doing, and does it in an enjoyable way.

I should probably comment on the plot and the characters, but as it goes with this sort of film, looking for a logical narrative and deep characterisation seems to me to be rather beside the point. Let’s just say the action scenes are connected via vaguely sensible (if you don’t stop and think about them) developments, Kurylenko’s character moments are well enough placed, and the ending’s a curious attempt at either being ambiguous or attempting to hawk a sequel that won’t come (because people rather preferred the showy and offensively stupid John Wick with that wooden puppet in the lead to a decent film, I suppose). That’s enough for me, particularly in a film that does its work of letting people die in creative ways and furniture explode as well as Momentum does.

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