Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Film Review: Bastille Day


Compiled from the leftover bits and bobs from three-dozen other (and better) action films, Bastille Day is a barely passable effort that is just thrills without the frills. 

Directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake, The Woman in Black) and starring two gruff British hunks in Idris Elba and Richard Madden, Bastille Day is a purely serviceable action rollercoaster filled to the brim with tired clich├ęs, implausible twists and

On the eve of the French national holiday, a nondescript group of bland Euro terrorists plan to bomb an important political landmark, thus grabbing the attention of the world media and stirring the hearts of likeminded revolutionaries across Paris. Finding himself mistakenly caught in the crossfire is Mason (Madden), a sly American pickpocket with a shady past whilst Elba plays Briar, a tough CIA operative tasked with bringing Mason in for questioning. Together they uncover the true intentions of the attackers – all whilst the streets of Paris escalate into all-out rebellion around them.

The strained attempt at having the villains leverage social media to stir the bubbling revolutionary pot is cringe inducing. At one point, the primary antagonist slams his fist onto the table and yells, “Send the final hashtag!” with the same fervour one would usually reserve for launching nuclear missiles. It’s a moment that is hopelessly shit and wonderfully bonkers at the same time.

If Elba is using this film as a proving ground for his much-discussed candidacy as the next James Bond, consider me unconvinced. His brooding character matches Watkins’ cheap Parisian alleyway brawls, but his natural swagger and charm is somewhat stifled by some creaky dialogue and thin characterisation. Briar is a cut-copy cop that punches first and chooses to rarely ask questions later, with Elba spending 80% of his time kicking down doors rather that working that trademark charisma.

The buddy-cop dynamic he shares with Madden offers some laughs, and this is where the film really nails it. Working together to exchange quip after quip, the duo inject some fun into the otherwise bland and forgettable action. With a stronger plot to back them up, this fun pairing could’ve pushed the film across the line – but unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Watkins shares writing duties with Andrew Baldwin; their convoluted screenplay borrows elements from likeminded Eurocentric action thrillers like TakenUnknown and London Has Fallen, whilst the third act draws inspiration from films like V for Vendetta

It’s not a bad concept, in theory; with the police on edge and looters pouring onto the streets, Watkins and Baldwin choose to draw from powerful imagery in order to mimic the Occupy movement or the Arab Spring, rooting the film firmly in the modern era. The film also neatly sidesteps the same xenophobic pratfalls as Luc Besson’s aforementioned Liam Neeson shoot ‘em up.

However, when you scratch beneath the surface, it doesn’t take long to uncover that the plot is just a collection of typical action movie nonsense filled with more holes than a jumbo block of Swiss cheese. Each plot twist is more ludicrous than the last and the finale really stretches the limits of plausibility.

The Verdict: 5.5/10


Bastille Day offers viewers an entertaining diversion for a tight 90 minutes, but the lasting impression it leaves behind is practically non-existent. Diehard fans of Elba will no doubt enjoy themselves as he kicks, punches and shoots his way though Paris, but this is one action film better reserved for a lazy Saturday Netflix session than a full-priced jaunt to the movies.

Bastille Day is in cinemas across Australia from Thursday May 12

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

2 comments:

  1. I'm bummed that it's not better, but I myself wouldn't want to see it if it was anyone but Madden and Elba in it. They're so hot.

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    Replies
    1. I'll take your word for it haha. Still a pretty passable action flick to fill a lazy arvo. Thanks for commenting!

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