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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – All the Devil’s Men

My notes on All the Devil’s Men.

An extremely glum action thriller with a cynical edge.  The only giggles in it come from screenwriter-director Matthew Hope’s peculiar decision to give his bearded, dour, intense, pill-popping assassin protagonist the character name ‘Jackie Collins’.  Milo Gibson, a second-generation action star, is tight-lipped but not terribly interesting as Jackie, who is introduced using a laptop and a silenced gun to override the central locking on a bulletproof car and kill a Libyan target outside a hotel in the middle East.  Then he heads for London and another gig, going after the top name on the President’s kill list – rogue operative Terry McKnight (Elliot Cowan) – for a big payout.  Effectively a bounty hunter, Jackie kills people at the behest of his CIA handler Leigh (Sylvia Hoeks) but mingles with a shadowy bunch of international ops who’ve been traumatised but bonded on the killing fields of Afghanistan and Iraq – and, naturally, have to fight it out among themselves without knowing or caring why.

 

Leigh has a particular grudge against McKnight – who decapitated her father and sent her the video as an email attachment – and doesn’t care how many mercs get shot just so long as she gets her revenge … it’s a slight problem that Jackie and his main sidekick Samuelson (Gbenga Akinnagbe) are pretty much as unpleasant as their main opposition, Islington-based security man Deighton (Joseph Millson), so we don’t really care whether they get killed either.  Veteran Brennan (William Fichtner) isn’t exactly likeable or admirable, but Fichtner is lively and entertaining enough as a presence that it’s a shame his character takes an early bath.  There’s a formula plot about McKnight buying a nuclear warhead (from a straighter version of Klreplachistan, the made-up former Soviet state from Austin Powers), but that doesn’t really go anywhere.  Instead, we get people glooming about in dark, drab locations – the best thing about the film is its sense of the pockets of nowhere dotted around nighttime London and suitable as locations for shoot-outs, betrayals, secret meetings, bludgeonings, interrogations and casual executions.

 

Hoeks, Akinnagbe and Millson try do liven up their standard roles – and the jury’s out on whether Milo, son of Mel, will be the new Michael Douglas or the new Jason Connery.  Hope, who made the British zombie movie The Vanguard and the Toby Kebbell thriller The Veteran, does a better job of direction than writing – too much of the dialogue seems cut-and-paste, with tipped-in speeches to establish backstory – and the hardboiled, hardbitten approach to international spying sits oddly with the current state of the world, in which it seems the top spots on the US President’s enemies lists would be taken by honest journalists, idealistic politicians, and aggrieved porn stars.

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