Runtime: 95 min
What To Expect: A really fucking boring B-movie
One supposes that 2015’s Survivor was initially intended for bigger things. With veteran action director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) at the helm and a cast which features the likes of Milla Jovovich and Pierce Brosnan, one must wonder if the feature might have been originally targeted for a decently-marketed theatrical run. Seeing the finished product, though, it’s obvious why it’s being dumped in only a handful of theatres. Written by first-time feature film scribe Philip Shelby, Survivor clearly wants to be taken with a straight face, but cooks up far too much narrative ludicrousness to achieve this goal. Moreover, it doesn’t even manage to deliver as a B-movie, with minimal action scenes and very little in the way of fun. McTeigue was apparently asleep throughout filming, as pacing is flat, action is mundane, and performances are blank. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Survivor came from the tired mills of Nu Image/Millennium Films, and was produced by the likes of Avi Lerner and Boaz Davidson. Did anyone expect quality?
At the United States Embassy in London, Kate (Jovovich) handles the distribution of visas. Upon meeting Dr. Emil Balan (Roger Rees), a few suspicious details stick out to Kate, who begins an investigation which provokes an unexpectedly hostile response from government officials. Despite support from her boss (Dylan McDermott), Kate is pushed out of the job, and is soon marked for death when an expert assassin known as The Watchmaker (Brosnan) is assigned to take her out. Kate narrowly avoids death in a bombing intended to finish her off, and becomes framed for both the bombing and the subsequent murder of her boss. With the government and her former colleagues trying to track her, and with The Watchmaker prowling around, Kate takes it upon herself to find out what Balan is actually up to.
Due to The Watchmaker’s presence, Survivor could have been a smart action-thriller similar to Michael Mann’s Collateral, but McTeigue and co. are not sophisticated enough. This should be a sizzling white-knuckler beset with plot twists, especially with a story as labyrinthine as this, but the film boils down to a lot of computer screens and running around whilst we observe the bad guys doing evil things. Thus, there’s no mystery here – no tension or suspense to transform the picture into a heated nail-biter. And no amount of overzealous music or repetitive chase scenes can change that. It doesn’t help that the screenplay is all over the shop, with verbose exposition and inconsistent characters (James D’Arcy just disappears into the final third). Plus, the fact that Kate is stymied by her boss in the first five minutes openly telegraphs the only twist there is (I think?). Speaking of Kate, she turns into action hero extraordinaire, able to outrun cops and fight trained professionals. It’s such a tangible girl power trip that one cannot help but facepalm as she sets off to kill the bad guys alone as if she were Rambo’s daughter.
For whatever reason, Survivor is a PG-13 endeavour when the material would be a better fit for an R-rated actioner. Firearm wounds are hilariously underplayed, people expire off-screen, and the movie can never quite find the hard-edged tone that it searches for. Since the movie debuted via on-demand services (and maybe two cinemas), the choice to go PG-13 is really bewildering. Not that excessive violence would’ve improved the movie much, but at least it might’ve been a bit more fun. Although Survivor admittedly looks a bit more cinematic than your typical DTV outing, McTeigue is unable to truly bring the material to life, which can probably be attributed to slipshod scripting and the predominantly Bulgarian locations. Indeed, the movie was shot on the cheap in dull areas around Bulgaria, and it shows – no amount of polish can compensate for this. If the reported $20 million budget is accurate, 99% of it clearly went to the actors.
Brosnan’s utmost professionalism is a given at this stage, with the aging actor an ideal pick for this assassin role. He gives off a steely, cold demeanour, and you can definitely buy him as the bad guy, but The Watchmaker is the most incompetent screen hitman in recent memory. He has the chance to kill Kate on more than one occasion, but mucks it up through nothing more than contrivance. In one scene, he feels compelled to approach Kate who’s lying on the ground as if to give her a chance to fight back. The climax is particularly embarrassing, as Kate manages to not only match the supposedly master assassin in close combat, but better him. Fans of Brosnan would do wise to stay away from this one, as his appearance amounts to a glorified cameo anyway. Indeed, Survivor is the Milla Jovovich show. Not even the mildly impressive supporting cast are given the chance to shine, with McDermott given almost nothing to do while Angela Bassett pushes papers and talks tough. What a waste.
Survivor closes with a title card to remind us of the heroic actions of the New York City police department in a post-9/11 world, which reinforces that the movie wanted to be a serious thriller about global terrorism. What a shame that the finished product is such a throwaway viewing experience, beset with laughable moments and terrible dialogue, eroding whatever sense of authenticity that Shelby’s script apparently wanted to introduce. No wonder the movie is being silently released without any marketing push.
The Night Rider
May 30, 2015 at 8:23 pm
Shit, that bad huh?
May 31, 2015 at 3:10 am
It even has Jovovich saying a terrible one-liner before killing Brosnan, who I again stress plays the worst hitman I’ve ever seen. The amount of times he mucks up…
May 30, 2015 at 8:34 pm
wow I was expecting a better movie.
May 30, 2015 at 9:00 pm
Brosnan gotta eat.
May 30, 2015 at 9:01 pm
We still got “Goldeneye”
May 31, 2015 at 11:28 am
FINISH THE JOB JAMES, BLOW THEM ALL TO HELL!
May 31, 2015 at 2:16 pm
May 31, 2015 at 1:20 pm
Goldeneye is amazing.
I’ll also defend Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough, but Die Another Day can eat shit and die.
May 31, 2015 at 2:15 pm
I think Brosnan was a great Bond & felt the producers kinda fucked him in the end in the way he was replaced. He helped make them lots of money. He wanted to do 1 more, 1 better than “Die Another Day” & then retire from the series. But the way they went about it was disrespectful.
Agree with u on the Brosnan Bond movies. Tomorrow Never Dies is awesome.
btw..i like Timothy Dalton a lot as Bond. Gotten shit for that in the past. But if u look at what Graig is doing..Dalton was a bit ahead if its time. But audiences at the time didnt connect with him. The Dalton 2 Bond films are actually cool
May 31, 2015 at 12:05 pm
Brosnan only appears in these b-rate action movies now because they won’t give him much else
May 31, 2015 at 2:21 pm
I think is time maybe for Brosnan to go back to tv & do some great work on a series
June 1, 2015 at 11:33 am
I hope we see that sequel to The November Man… R-rated action and Brosnan in a more brutal role than usual. I paid to buy the first one (never came to cinemas here), and I’ll pay to watch the second if it’s made.
May 31, 2015 at 2:19 pm
The remake of the “thomas crown affair” starrin Brosnan & renee russo
Directed by John McTiernan
June 2, 2015 at 12:37 am
Brosnan is joke these days his face tells you to avoid a movie instead of watching in fact it has always been that way with his romcom crap
June 7, 2015 at 1:33 pm
This is playing in theatres here…. I think I’ll stay home and watch “GoldenEye” and “Dante’s Peak” again, thanks for the heads up.
No matter how bad Pierce mucks up though, it can’t possibly be as atrocious as “Mamma Mia”, good grief, that damn movie…