211Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 06/07/18 13:17:19
When people watch Nicolas Cage movies these days—I assume that there are still some hardy souls inclined to do so—they are doing so in the hopes of finding either the increasingly rare diamond in the rough that reminds them of the brilliant and ingenious actor that he used to be (as was the case with films like “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” “Joe” or his singular turn in “Mom and Dad”) or, as is more often the case, those moments of batshit insanity that may not land on a Lifetime Achievement clip reel but will definitely find a home on countless YouTube compilations. Alas, even those faithful will have little patience with his latest effort (his fourth to be released so far this year), the dreadfully dull action thriller “211.”After getting stiffed on money owed them by a sleazy war profiteer, a group of American mercenaries arrives in a small U.S. town (unconvincingly played by Bulgaria, where the film was shot) to rob the bank where the guy stashed his money, even going so far as to blow up a nearby restaurant as a way of diverting attention away from their activities. Unfortunately for them, the cops figure out what is going on and this kicks off an extended violent firefight between the heavily armed and ruthless mercenaries and the cops, who have just as much firepower as their foes but not nearly as much experience in putting it to use. As the siege goes on into the night, the cops try to bring the situation to a conclusion while keeping the body count as low as possible while the thieves hold them off while plotting their escape, not caring too much about how many people they will have to kill in order to get away with that sweet sweet moolah.
To be fair, the concept of an all-out action thriller with political overtones is not without interest and one wonders what a filmmaker like Robert Aldrich, who had deftly juggled such items in a number of his past films, might have done with this particular premise. However, in what will surely be the understatement of the year, writer-director York Alec Shackleton is no Robert Aldrich and pretty much makes a hash of things throughout by setting all the potential political commentary aside in order to jam as many hoary cliches into the narrative as humanly possible. Take the three occupants of the cop car that first notices that something strange is going on before everything goes to hell. One cop (Cage) is on the verge of retirement, estranged from his daughter (Sophie Skelton) and talks about the difficulties of policing in an era where everyone has a camera to his younger partner (Dwayne Cameron), who is not only married to Cage’s daughter but has just learned that morning that he is going to be a father. In the back seat is an African-American teenager (Michael Rainey Jr.) who has been forced to go on a ride-along after punching the school bully who has been tormenting him for being “different” and who has plenty of mistrust of the police as well. This is an insane amount of cliches to pack into one cop cruiser and the fact that every single one of those devices plays out in the expected manner only makes them all the more excruciating. The action sequences are equally listless as well—thousands of rounds go off in the course of the story but not one of them hits their mark from a cinematic standpoint.Unless you have been desperately yearning for a film that would somehow combine the worst elements of a shameless “Heat” ripoff with the worst elements of “Crash” (not the Cronenberg one, needless to say), there is literally not a single reason for anyone to invest any time of money towards watching this nonsense—too bad no one considered this when the film was in its pre-production stage. As for collectors of Cage insanity, I am sorry to say that your hero has come up painfully short here—this is as bored and listless of a performance as I have ever seen him give. On the bright side, he does have four more movies scheduled for release over the course of the rest of the year and the one where he plays a big game trapper whose cargo of exotic animals gets loose and wreaks havoc on an ocean freighter while he is shipping them does sound extremely promising in terms of potential cuckoo Cage histrionics.
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