This is a working definition of Hollywood midlist shit c 2022. Based on a (well-liked) PlayStation game, with one newish star known mostly for an active franchise (Tom Holland) teamed with an oldish star who’s slipped to Netflix originals (Mark Wahlburg). A name baddie (Antonio Banderas) is underused and killed off at mid-point to be replaced by his top goon (Tati Gabrielle) in what ought to be a shock twist but which feels as if Banderas’ contracted-for shooting days got used up before the climax was shot.
The latest riff on Indiana Jones-National Treasure-Lara Croft, it’s stuck with a decision George Lucas made when he wasn’t sure if a 1930s Republic-style serial would really cut it in the 1980s and made Indy a raider rather than an idealist. It would now be refreshing to have an adventurer hero who cares about ancient cultures as more than a way of earning big bucks illegally. Here, at the end, after the gold has been found and lost and (as usual) priceless irreplaceable historical finds destroyed, Nathan Drake (Holland) tells Victor Sullivan (Wahlburg) they can always dive to the bottom of the sea to get the booty and Sully points to an approaching ship and says ‘it belongs to the Philippines now’. Which, technically, it always did.
Nathan, an orphan, works as a cocktail mixer in a New York bar, incidentally stealing from the patrons – which would make him, what’s the technical term?, a thieving cunt in most people’s books, no matter how fucking charming or dimpled smiley he is and that he has a vague sad backstory involving an absent older brother who’s been sending him postcards with clues for this adventure from a post-credits sting that sets up a movie the studio hope will get made next. Sully recruits Nate to turn the lights out during a big auction heist – a job he can’t even do properly, thanks to the intervention of Jo Braddock (Gabrielle, with an unbecoming hairdo that looks like someone’s been sick on her bonce), bodyguard of banker Santiago Moncada (Banderas), whose ancestors financed Magellan’s voyage round the world and who’s been looking for the fortune the explorer said he’d bring back but never turned over. To find the big treasure, various action set-pieces have to be endured against greenscreen – this is the sort of film where falling out of a plane is seldom fatal, and the weightlessness tends to make everything kinetic without being exciting.
Two antique gold crosses are part of the plot – they turn out to be keys (NB: gold is too soft to be used in keys) that singly or in combination open locks under Barcelona that lead to big pots of salt and a map … then it’s off to the Philippines for some flying, swimming, fighting and a weird bit with giant helicopters dangling Magellan’s original ships (didn’t they get back without him?) and Tom and Mark play Donkey Kong. Sophia Ali is a bright spark as an additional duplicitous adventuress – distinguished from Jo because she’s not murderous and doesn’t look like she’s been puked on. This year, The Lost City and Jungle Cruise offer more entertainment in the undemanding adventure fluff department. And one dreads the idea of an extended PlayStation cinematic universe. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, of the Zombieland films and Venom – ie: who you get when Alan Taylor, Louis Leterrier, David Leitch or Tim Miller pass.