My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)



Directed by: Bob Balaban

The only reason I watched ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ because I thought about doing a bit on the early work of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman, credited in this movie minus the ‘Seymour’, plays a jock stooge. He gets a handful of lines and ends up receiving a fireman’s axe through his head. There aren’t many glimpses of the greatness to come; in fact, his performance is part of a film that I would describe as a mediocre disappointment.

‘My Boyfriend’s Back’, likely named after the popular sixties song from The Angels, is not appropriately titled because technically speaking, Missy McCloud, the love interest in this movie, is not actually in a relationship with the film’s undead hero Johnny when he is alive. So really the title really makes no sense.

Knowingly bad, ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ doesn’t take itself seriously; it’s almost like one of those campy Elvira films, minus the sassy innuendos. The film’s story goes something like this – Johnny is a senior in High School, he’s been pining over Missy McCloud for twelve years and one day dreams of getting with her, his main ambition is to take her to the prom. Blocking his path is Buck, Missy’s ex-boyfriend, played by ‘Lost’ star Matthew Fox. The second obstacle comes when Johnny and his friend decide to win over Missy by setting up a situation where Johnny stops a fake robbery at the convenience store where Missy works, proving himself to be a hero, who is willing to put his life on the line for her. Unfortunately for Johnny a real criminal decides to hold up the convenience store. Johnny takes a bullet during the robbery that was intended for Missy.

Johnny dies and comes back as a zombie. In most films there’d be this whole adjustment period where Johnny takes a while to come to terms with his undead state, but nobody really bats an eyelid, and life pretty much goes back to normal for him. The only familiar zombie trope is that he is susceptible to losing body parts. There are a few funny lines around these scenes, including one from Johnny’s Mom, who says “Are you hungry? There’s a lot of food leftover from your funeral”.

The films turns into a sweetish love story, as Missy, seemingly turned on by dead men falls head over heels for Johnny. The film meanders quite a bit from here, and becomes rather boring, ending with a predictable happy ever after finale.

‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ knows it’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it is a fun little afternoon time killer that doesn’t enrage the viewer. Andrew Lowery, who plays the lead Johnny, acted in a trilogy of teen movies in the early nineties. As well as this movie he also had roles in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘School Ties’, he didn’t go on to much after that, which is a shame because he’s a charming presence. The trouble is the supporting cast are patchy, and underwritten. Buck the jock is not a constant thorn in Johnny’s side, the best friend character exists on the periphery and all the best lines come from Johnny’s unconditionally loving parents.

– RJW
4/10

My Boyfriend’s Back on IMDB

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FDR: American Badass! (2012) #2

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Finding myself with a few spare hours and a mood for ridiculous viewing, I decided to try and find a film to watch that I felt truly represents what we here at the ISCFC are all about. There are a million and a half movie review sites/blogs/tumblrs out there these days. And while you may find the occasional big budget film on here, we are a group of cult film lovers. And what defines a true cult film that will attract legions to it is not a big budget, or headline news celebrity casting, or even potential for violence or nudity (preferably graphic for both). It’s that ability to just couch lock a person by themselves or with a group of their friends, and them truly have insane time watching the weirdest film and loving it despite every indication that it may be a piece of utter trash from bowels of Netflix. With that said: “FDR: American Badass!” is, to me, what the Syndicate is all about.

I. Fucking. Love. This. Film. Love it. Ross Patterson, the cult guru visionary behind “Pool Boy”, is truly a writer who understands his audience. We here in America have been faced with tough times lately. Recession, war, cartoonish political antics: the list goes on. And in this bleak time, a yearning for traditional American “badassery” runs rampant through the populace. And who is possibly more badass than the very wheelchair bound man who ripped us from the depths of the Great Depression, won the bloodiest war in human history and helped propel America into the superpower, however shaky that title is, that we are today. All the while battling Nazi fucking werewolves apparently!

That’s right, history buffs, Mr. Patterson’s vision has taken a few liberties with their portrayal of “The Delano”. Did our dear 32nd President slap asses, hunt werewolves, fly bombers at Normandy, or smoke George Washington’s private stash of “Cherry Tree” weed? (best line: “What the fuck were you into, G-Dubs?!)

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Well, if we are to believe public school propaganda, then most likely not. But he may have. He just may have.

Barry Bostwick is beyond genius as “The Delano”. He captures the essence of American stoic WASP duty and frat boy shenanigans better than anyone else possible. After contracting polio from a Nazi werewolf bite while on a hunt as the governor of New York, FDR makes it his lifelong duty to rid the world of the evil Axis powers led by werewolf Hitler, werewolf Mussolini, and werewolf Hirohito as they begin their plan for world werewolf domination. But just because he is wheelchair bound doesn’t mean he can’t take the fight to the front lines in his wheelchair of death, the ‘Delano 2000’. Look for genius performances by Ross Patterson as a drunken Southern congressman with a patriotic slut wife, and the always enjoyable Bruce McGill as FDR’s right hand straight man. Also, a magical weed haze induced cameo by Kevin Sorbo as the orig badass American, Abe Lincoln. Wait for his legendary line ” Emancipate that ass!”.

This is a fun movie. It is ridiculous and silly and lowbrow and offensive to women, Germans, the disabled, werewolves and polio. And I loved every single minute of it. Don’t watch it with your judgemental girlfriend when she is realllyyyyy in the mood for some indie rom com putrid swill. She will hate you. Watch it with 10 of your best friends and a pile of booze and/or illicit substances (we here at the ISCFC do not promote illegal activity, but we respect your right for responsible choice). Laugh you ass off the entire time, and find yourselves quoting it at the bar for the next year.

– Adam Schirling

FDR: American Badass! on IMDB
Read Mark’s review of FDR: American Badass!

Youtube Film Club: A Midnight Clear (1992)

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Directed by: Keith Gordon

Before I get into reviewing ‘A Midnight Clear’ I’d like to offer up my Top Ten Second World War films:

1. A Bridge Too Far
2. The Thin Red Line (1998)
3. Battle of Britain
4. Escape to Victory
5. Memphis Belle
6. Inglorious Basterds
7. Sophie Scholl – The Final Days
8. Enemy at the Gates
9. The Dirty Dozen
10. Tora! Tora! Tora!

Ok, with that out of the way let’s get to this little gem of a war movie called ‘A Midnight Clear’. Really it isn’t so much a war movie, as it is an anti-war tale, a story of how soldiers fighting under their nation’s respective banners weren’t that different back in WW2. All they really wanted was to get back home in one piece. An argument could also be made that ‘A Midnight Clear’ is the best Second World War film that hardly anybody is aware of.

The psychological horror of war is evident instantly as mad screams come from a trench in The Ardennes. It is the coldest of winters, and you can feel the frostbite. Mother (Gary Sinese) is losing his mind; he leaps out of his foxhole, and begins to strip naked, his buddy in the trench, a fresh faced Will Knott (Ethan Hawke), follows him, concerned that this madness could lead them both to grave danger. Mother, after sprinting ahead, is found by Will, he is scrubbing himself in a freezing stream. When this ends Mother decides to put his clothes back on, his teeth chattering. Will offers to take him to an Army psychiatrist, but Mother doesn’t want to go.

Will is the narrator of the story, and he tells us how the squad is down to a half dozen men, after good men were needlessly killed on a suicidal recon mission. The depleted squad are lambs to the slaughter and sent on another risky exercise by Dr. Cox from ‘Scrubs’ to scout out whether or not the Nazi’s are mounting an all-out offensive.

The squad set up a post in an abandoned building, whilst there Will has a flashback to his early days in army, before his squad were deployed to Europe. Concerned that they were still virgins, and may well die without getting their dicks wet, four of the men go out searching for a whore. They bump into an innocent, traumatized girl called Janice, who lost her husband Mac overseas. Janice is looking for her own physical contact and emotional fulfilment. In what is surprisingly a rather touching scene, the soldiers respectively get to know Janice, and during the night, she visits each of them one by one, giving them what they were looking for.

Whilst on lookout Will and another soldier realize the enemy are close, in fact within talking distance. The Germans begin calling over to the Americans, seemingly taunting them. Each night the Germans, rather than wishing to attack the Americans begin to offer an olive branch. They chant “Fuck Hitler” and don’t take the opportunity to blast away the Americans when they have them in their rifle sights. Eventually the two sides form a dialogue of sorts, and come together. After tense negotiations they hatch a plan that will perhaps get all of them out of the warzone alive.

‘A Midnight Clear’, like ‘Escape to Victory’ is not a conventional war film. It reinforces the idea that the men who served their countries did so, not solely for national pride, and the freedom of their country, not even for the greater good, but with the intention of surviving. The squad are young men with principles, with desires, trapped in an insane game that takes place on foreign soil. All they want is to make it out of the shit.

There are solid performances throughout the film from a bright cast including Ethan Hawke, Kevin Dillon and Gary Sinese, and director Keith Gordon takes great care with each scene, making the unrealistic, i.e. German soldiers befriending Americans, rather believable. This is a parable first and foremost, but it isn’t one that is clumsy or forced. ‘A Midnight Clear’ is a war film with little action, but plenty to keep you on the edge of your seat, as you find yourself willing the troops to make it through the war and enjoy a safe trip home. The sad thing is you know they’re not all going to make it, there will be casualties.

– RJW
7/10

A Midnight Clear on IMDB

Ghost Shark (2013)

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The SyFy Channel has finally become self-aware. After years of being the butt of jokes on websites like this, Twitter and so on, they realised that the only reason people watched their original movies was to mock them and decided to start the joking themselves. Throughout “Ghost Shark”, little boxes appear at the top of the screen with hashtag recommendations for your mockery, but does this spoil the fun?

Of course it does, is the simple answer. After “Sharknado” – https://iscfc.net/2013/07/17/sharknado-2013/ – SyFy became the bullied kid that started picking on itself to try and ingratiate itself with the cool gang. The films aren’t any better or more self-aware, they just didn’t bother hiring anyone particularly famous, relying on Twitter. The big name they got for this one was third banana on “Night Court”, a sitcom much more famous in the USA than it was over here, and he’s not in it all that much anyway.

After a couple of drunk rednecks wound a shark, it swims off to die in a magic cave and is reincarnated as Ghost Shark. That’s all the plot you need, really – a group of nondescript kids tries to save the day; the Mayor tries to stop everyone panicking due to the big development he’s got planned for the town; Ghost Shark eats a lot of people.

Unusually for a film about teenagers, they’re played by people who look roughly the right age, so when they’re filmed in extremely small bikinis, it made me feel a little uncomfortable. I mean, women in their mid-20s pretending to be teenagers, that’s a recipe for film success. This just seemed…indecent? The main male teenager is, unless I missed something important at the beginning, just a sleazy hanger-on to the main group of friends, who does literally nothing of any importance to the plot.

Enough of this. Let’s talk about my four rules of shark movies!

Rule 1: ‘there must be a shot where the three heroes are on a speedboat looking ahead with determination’.

YES! About an hour in, the Mayor and a few cops take their boat to fight Ghost Shark.

Rule 2: ‘ there must be a large seafront entertainment event that can’t be cancelled, for some reason’.

YES! (almost) The event that can’t be cancelled is a pool party, but as Ghost Shark can manifest in any water at all, I’m counting that as “seafront”.

Rule 3: ‘at least one character must behave in a brain-buggeringly stupid way, to drive the plot along’

YES! Line up, you dumbasses. There is no one specific moment of dumbness, though, just lots and lots of little ones.

Rule 4: ‘sharks be super-powered’

YES! It’s a shark that’s a ghost, that at one point appears inside a cup of water and proceeds to eat the water-drinker from the inside.

So, 4 out of 4, which is pretty good going. It also fulfils the additional “SyFy Film Naming Rule” – which is cool event or thing in one bucket, monster name in the other, draw a word from each bucket, make a film.

There’s really no sense reviewing any more of this film. SyFy clearly don’t care what these films are like any more, so why should we? If you’re bothered, you can look out for the number of times the rules surrounding Ghost Shark change and change back during the course of the film, the way the Sheriff describes normal police work as “madness”, the way one of the heroes is actually a panicky little asshole, and my personal favourite, survivors being bizarrely happy that everyone they’ve known or loved is now dead.

There’s no reason these films have to suck. There are plenty of B-movies on a level with this where there’s humour, excitement, well-shot fight scenes and a decent ending, but the air of no-one (aside from the young actors trying to get a start in the business) giving the tiniest bit of a damn hangs over every aspect. It’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, but replacing the comedians with Twitter, and the genuinely bizarre and terrible films they used to cover with just flat, boring garbage.

 

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RATING: negative 1 out of 10

Youtube Film Club – Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988)

This woman's not in the film, in case you were wondering

This woman’s not in the film, in case you were wondering

 

Much like its predecessor, also reviewed on this site – “Sleepaway Camp 2” is available in its entirety on Youtube. Why not dip into it so my spoiler-heavy review won’t spoil anything?

A group of kids at a different (but relatively nearby) summer camp handily recap the first film for us in the form of a campfire ghost story. There’s no particular reason to have Angela from the first film be in this – it could be a copycat teen with mental health issues, or one of her relatives or something. But no, it’s the same girl, played by a different actress, and they decide to reveal this fact in the first five minutes of the film, which is an interesting idea.

 

This is the summer camp where every 80s cliché imaginable goes to spend some time. Now, a lot of this review may well be completely false, based on my faulty understanding of summer camps. I always assumed they were mostly populated by kids of 14 and younger, and the rare older kids would be camp counsellors. In this film, it’s almost all older kids, with a few younger ones there to provide a link to the teen raunch movies set at summer camps by trying to take photos of women in the nude (oh, and getting murdered just before the end, but that’s not really a result of them being young). But you’re left with the slightly unsettling feeling of there being five counsellors for every kid, or Angela barking orders at a group of teens who all look older than she does.

 

Talking about the rules of film is boring, but if you watch enough garbage (85 reviews and counting!) you start to learn them in a rubbish savant sort of way. The way you realise you know them is what happens when you watch a film that doesn’t obey – sometimes, it’s as simple as B needing to follow A for a film to make sense, but on other occasions it’s a bit more complex. In “Sleepaway Camp 2”, you know who the murderer is right from the start, and because we spend so much time with her, and because virtually everyone at the summer camp is a scumbag, our sympathies start to lie with Angela. But there’s a problem there, in that we we never learn why she’s decided to carry on with her career of wholesale murder of people at summer camps, and her reasons for killing people, tenuous at the beginning, just become silly by the end. So we’re really left with no-one to care about, apart from Molly, one of the teenagers who isn’t so much a protagonist as a lucky survivor.

 

Before I continue – the two leading ladies in this film are relatives of much more famous people – Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s sister) is Angela, and Renee Estevez, who I think is a cousin or something of Charlie and Emilio, is Molly. Still not as good as the ragtag band of celeb-relatives in “The Roller Blade Seven”, but a respectable showing.

 

You don’t need me to tell you 90% of the plot of this film. Teens get killed, a lot. There’s a risky reference to Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers at one point too – it’s one of the strictest rules of cinema:

 

“If you make a bad movie, don’t have references in it to good ones, as people will just want to go and watch that instead”

 

“Good” is obviously relative here. Anyway, the thing that intrigues about this movie is the fairly gleeful way Angela goes about her business of punishing people for basically any activity she sees as even slightly bad. Walk around your dorm topless? That’s a killing. Be slightly mean to Angela? That’s a killing. Try and have sex with someone or smoke a joint? You’d better believe that’s a killing.

 

We find out at the end that Angela was released from the mental institution, and that she had a sex change while she was there. I mean, this is so commonplace in movies that I barely need to mention it – lots of mentally ill teen murderers locked up in mental institutions are given sex changes on the public dime. Now she’s a woman and has gone through all that therapy, and is considered well enough (after committing a lot of murders, lest we forget) she seems to go right back to killing people, with nary a hint of remorse or explanation as to why she does so.

 

As we drag on towards the film’s inevitable conclusion, there’s some fun to be had. A kid gets stabbed in the leg and then sort-of gives up, lying down and letting Angela kill him (when Angela gets a similar injury near the end, not only does it not seem to bother her all that much but she catches someone who is running for her life and has a start on her). Two teens have sex, and as the woman’s getting up she says “listen, you don’t have AIDS or anything, do you?” Ah, the 80s. There are a couple of classic slasher movie bits – decapitated head placed inside a broken television, our heroine cackles “Have you seen what’s on TV?” and she picks up, tests and discards a series of potential murder weapons before settling on one (a full 6 years before Quentin Tarantino had the same idea for “Pulp Fiction”).

 

The plumber really went all out

The plumber really went all out

Angela’s fired before she can finish killing everyone, which must have been a bit of a bummer for her – still, she doesn’t let it get her down and kills everyone anyway. Don’t think too hard about the end, because you’ll just get annoyed (I certainly was) and just relish the knowledge that no resolution was gained, the bad guy won easily, and it didn’t so much end as the filmmakers hit 80 minutes of usable footage and went “that’ll do”. Next up, “Sleepaway Camp 3”!!

Pump Up The Volume (1990)

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Directed by: Allan Moyle

‘Pump Up The Volume’ is a surprisingly good forgotten teen movie from 1990 starring a fresh faced Christian Slater before he began to slowly morph into a Jack Nicholson impersonator. It carries all the tropes of your standard American High School flick, containing jocks, geeks and freaks, uptight authority figures, the sympathetic English teacher who tries to inspire their students and parents who are too busy with their own problems to worry about their kids. Despite this it has real heart; it is a film that honestly reflects teenage frustration.

A rebellious smut talking DJ called Happy Harry Hard-on has a pirate radio show that is talk of the Hubert Humphrey High School. Kids tune in every night at 10pm, and listen to Harry rant and relate to his listeners over an alternative soundtrack. Like a young Howard Stern he relies heavily on smut, faking acts of masturbation over the airwaves. His “don’t give a fig” outsider attitude inspires his student listeners to think for themselves and rage against the authoritarian high school faculty members.

Harry is actually an average kid called Mark, who is shy and hasn’t got the confidence to form friendships or talk to girls ‘in real life’. He skulks around campus, borrows books about Lenny Bruce to inspire his nocturnal routines and eats lunch all by himself on the cold concrete steps. Mark became a DJ accidentally, when the short-wave radio his parents brought to enable him to stay in touch with the friends he’s moved away from doesn’t work properly (there was no such thing as Skype in those days), he ends up broadcasting to nobody in particular. At first he’s unaware that his show has brought together a whole community of teens in a small town until local media coverage causes pandemonium. Mark, using his alter ego Harry, is able to preach about how jaded he is with teenage life. He doesn’t see any role models out there, he believes everything has been done, and that there’s nothing to look forward to.

The show causes a great deal of speculation around campus about the identity of Harry. A girl called Nora (Samantha Mathis) idolizes the DJ and attempts to figure out who it is that is making these daring broadcasts. Eventually she twigs it’s Mark, but her attempts to get to know him are almost futile, because Mark hasn’t got a voice when he’s not behind a microphone.

One of the darkest scenes in the film, handled rather wonderfully, is when one of the many people who leaves fan mail for Harry writes a suicidal note asking Harry – “do you think I should kill myself?” Harry rings the troubled teen and tries to tell him that everybody feels alone. The teen, a high schooler named Malcolm is too distressed for Harry’s words to make any sort of impact and sadly decides to take his own life.

Mark is rattled by this horrific event, and considers ending the show, and destroying his alter ego for good. He makes one last broadcast where he makes a wonderful speech about teenage suicide, arguably one of the most honest speeches on the subject in film history, which is all the more remarkable given that it is buried midway through this run of the mill teen movie. See, though this film does preach, it does so in such a way that it doesn’t feel clichéd or overbearing. Director Allen Moyle, who also wrote the screenplay, is able to pick up on the brainwaves that rattle around teenage heads and make a film despite great advances in technology, (which makes this almost a historic piece) is still relatable for a young audience today.

The rest of the movie focusses on Mark falling in love, and the local media frenzy that surrounds his on air attack on the high school for their dubious practices concerning expelling pupils in bring down the school’s SAT score average. Christian Slater shines throughout in a naturally talented performance which makes me wonder why the rest of the nineties became such a rollercoaster for him. Though the fire was still there in ‘True Romance’, by ‘Hard Rain’ it was all over.

– RJW
7/10

Pump Up The Volume on IMDB

The Numbers Station (2013)

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Time off for good behaviour means every now and again, I watch a film where there’s at least half a chance I’m going to enjoy it. Will John Cusack and Malin Akerman and their tale of spies be as good as, say, “Snow Shark”? Let’s see.

Cusack and Liam Cunningham, one of my favourite actors and currently killing it as Davos Seaworth in “Game of Thrones”, are partners in some endeavour or other (but they’re probably CIA agents). Cusack is cracking a code, or using a cypher, while Cunningham attempts some banter – tricky when your friend is an emotionless assassin. Assassin? Ah, yes. They’re given some orders and Cusack proceeds to wipe out everyone in a bar – all besides one, and when they track him down to finish off the job, Cusack discovers a sort of morality when he’s unable to murder his target’s daughter, as per protocol. Cunningham has no such trouble, and knocks Cusack out in the process.

Due to his sudden inexplicable case of compassion, Cusack is judged unfit to go back out into the field, so is given a job as babysitter to a “broadcaster” at a numbers station in England. Now, “numbers stations” have been around since the end of WW2, and although they’re officially not recognised by our governments, they’re apparently used to transmit orders to people in the field, for whom emails and phone calls might be spied on. They just broadcast streams of numbers, most often using a computer-generated female voice, and the most well-known one according to Wikipeda is called “Blackleg Miner”, in England, and that’s where this film is set.

Cusack’s broadcaster is Malin Akerman, because otherwise this film would be about John Cusack learning to love a computer, and the film leaves her pretty much a blank slate while Cusack’s life is fleshed out – sitting in silence for days at a time while at work, drinking himself into oblivion while at “home”, thinking about the dead teenager. When he changes shifts and sees the other team entering the base, the male agent with his hand low on his female broadcaster’s back, he stares, partly out of surprise at seeing human warmth, partly because he maybe wishes he’d thought of doing that too.

Inevitably, this stasis in their lives cannot last, and they go to work for their shift to find the base has been invaded by a group of three people, and the other shift has been killed. Although I’d not really considered it to this point, the film’s obvious low budget starts to become apparent – at least two-thirds of the film is just Akerman and Cusack, running round the base, trying to both fight off the people who came in, find out why they did it and stop their plan (which involved cracking the code and broadcasting their own message). The CCTV feed has been cut, but they still have recorded sound, so they get the story of what happened before they arrived, parcelled out as they get closer to some resolution.

Most of the film isn't this exciting (or outside)

Most of the film isn’t this exciting (or outside)

I had the thought while watching this that if it was black-and-white, and French, “people” would be a great deal more excited about this film than they were (it sank without a trace, critically and commercially speaking). But then I thought that was just my prejudice, and realised the film would have had some issues, no matter the colour palette or language. There’s no double cross or twist, leaving it feeling rather old-fashioned – several aspects of “The Numbers Station” feel like red herrings, or plot threads left in from an earlier script draft. For instance, along with them finding the audio footage, the viewers get to see what happened. Now, aside from being a throwback to films like “The Conversation”, the only reason to have audio, not video, is so it can be manipulated to leave a false trail, or to show their impressions of it were wrong, or something. But it’s just a straight re-telling of what happened, which is a bit jarring.

Talking of the video, the bad guy is so ludicrous that you’re praying for his character to be twisted into something more interesting. But if you’ve seen one well-read, erudite but utterly cold murderer, you’ve seen ‘em all. And that’s the problem with this film. I really believe the filmmakers wanted to make something really interesting – a character study of the people who are twisted by their immersion in the world of espionage and assassination, but it was either heavily rewritten at the last moment or someone hacked an hour off its running time (it comes in at a shade under 90 minutes). Now, if a film isn’t going to tell you who the bad guys are, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then it had better make sure you’re kept interested in some other way, and I think this film falls between being a genuinely interesting piece of cinema and a straight-up thriller, and sort of fails at both.

I haven’t mentioned Malin Akerman much, sorry. While I don’t hate her quite as much as the people who blame her for “Watchmen” being a failure, I just don’t buy her as a cinema leading player. She’s fantastic on “Childrens Hospital”, the 15-minute comedy series on Adult Swim, but not here (and it’s horribly obvious by the end that the filmmakers don’t have a clue what to do with her either, which doesn’t help). There’s a bit where she says she was recruited straight out of college, by a company that made apps for phones. Now, this leads me to believe they wrote the parts for two younger actors, then recast but didn’t bother rewriting – Akerman is 35, so when she was graduating from college mobile phones would have been bulky things with no apps of any kind.

For fun, see if you can piece together a timeline that puts this movie and “Grosse Pointe Blank” in the same universe – maybe instead of rescuing Minnie Driver at the end of that, she died and he threw himself into his assassination work. Well, he has the same hangdog expression, the same clothes and the same moral flexibility. Saying that, Cusack seems to be happy playing variations on this role in a lot of movies in recent years (the driving one with Thomas Jane springs to mind too).

Lastly, maybe next time the CIA is hiring for a job like this, pick people who stand less of a chance of falling in love with each other (two straight people of the same sex, two gay people of different sexes, for example) and messing up your incredibly complex and expensive plans.

Rating: thumbs in the middle