The Films of Roger Donaldson
No Way Out (March 13/08)
Though Robert Garland's screenplay periodically stretches the very limits of credibility, No Way Out primarily comes off as a fast-moving and increasingly compelling thriller that boasts a number of thoroughly captivating performances. Kevin Costner stars Tom Farrell, a naval officer whose relationship with a sultry socialite (Sean Young's Susan Atwell) lands him in hot water after she's murdered by Gene Hackman's David Brice. Brice, the Secretary of Defense (and Tom's boss), immediately puts his henchman (Will Patton's Scott Pritchard) on the case, and it's not long before Tom finds himself forced to cover up his connection to the dead woman (lest he be accused of committing the crime). The romantic triangle that forms much of No Way Out's opening half hour admittedly does ensure that things get off to a deliberate start, yet there's little doubt that the movie ultimately morphs into an unexpectedly tense effort as the walls begin to close in on Costner's character. The suspenseful atmosphere is only heightened by the actors' uniformly strong work, although (as effective as Costner and Hackman are) it's Patton - placed within the confines of an exceedingly reprehensible and enjoyably smarmy figure - who delivers the movie's most engaging performance.
The Recruit (January 31/03)
The Recruit casts Colin Farrell as James Clayton, a rising star in the world of computer programming. One night, while working behind the bar at a local club, he receives a visit from the mysterious Walter Burke (Al Pacino) - who claims to be a recruiter from the CIA. James is intrigued, and agrees to take the standard CIA entrance test - and, perhaps not too surprisingly, passes with flying colors. Shortly after, James finds himself heading out to the training facility known as "the farm," where he's to learn the tricks of the trade. Not long after arriving, James finds himself smitten with a fellow recruit named Layla (Bridget Moynahan) and tries to pursue a relationship. The attraction is exactly what Walter was counting on, as he suspects Layla of being a mole who is attempting to steal a deadly computer virus from the CIA. James' mission is to get close enough to Layla to find out who she's working for, but as Walter is constantly reminding him, "nothing is what it seems." The Recruit, for the most part, plays like one of those underwhelming straight-to-video flicks that usually stars either Eric Roberts or Dean Cain - except here, with its sky-high budget and big-name actors, the film fails on a much larger scale. The screenplay is credited to three writers, all of whom undoubtedly prepared by watching a lot of thrillers. The second half of the film is peppered with a variety of genre cliches, including the bad guy who spells out his entire plan (thus incriminating himself). The only thing that makes the film remotely watchable during this silliness are the actors; Farrell, a rare up-and-coming star who's actually talented, proves that even when he's not given much to work with, he's capable of turning in an exceptional performance. And Pacino, playing the latest variation on his now-patented "grizzled mentor" role, is as effective as always (although his jet-black hair and goatee is about as convincing as Sean Hayes playing Jerry Lewis). So, while the training sequences are surprisingly exciting and involving, the remainder of The Recruit is a tremendous letdown.
The World's Fastest Indian
The Bank Job
Seeking Justice (June 19/12)
Directed by Roger Donaldson, Seeking Justice follows Nicolas Cage's Will Gerard as his life is thrown into turmoil after his wife (January Jones' Laura) is raped by an unknown assailant - with Will's desire for revenge eventually leading him to a mysterious figure known only as Simon (Guy Pearce). Simon, it's quickly revealed, is the head of a clandestine network dedicated to seeking vigilante justice for clients on a quid pro quo basis, and Will, after agreeing to let Simon "take care" of his wife's attacker, inevitably finds himself asked to perform a decidedly unsavory favor for Simon's increasingly sinister organization. It's an intriguing setup that is, at the outset, employed to perfectly watchable effect by filmmaker Roger Donaldson, as the director, working from a script by Robert Tannen, does a nice job of initially emphasizing the admittedly off-kilter situations that Cage's character finds himself drawn into (ie Simon forces Will to jump through a series of oddball hoops in the execution of his payback assignment). It's only as Seeking Justice rolls into its palpably padded-out midsection that one's interest begins to flag, with the progressively less-than-engrossing atmosphere compounded by the inclusion of unreasonably preposterous plot developments (ie there reaches a point at which it becomes impossible to comfortably swallow the rampant silliness of the movie's twists and turns). There is, as such, little doubt that the film's action-oriented sequences are simply unable to pack the visceral punch that Donaldson has clearly intended, with the less-than-engrossing vibe compounded by an almost egregious emphasis on Will's tedious investigation into Simon's shady cabal. The end result is a hopelessly uneven thriller that just isn't able to live up to its seemingly can't-miss premise, with the film's borderline passable atmosphere perpetuated by Cage and, especially, Pearce's strong work.
The November Man (October 16/14)
The November Man casts Pierce Brosnan as Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA operative who's reluctantly drawn into a wide-reaching conspiracy that pits him against his former protégé (Luke Bracey's Mason). There's a lot more to the narrative than just that, however, and The November Man is, as a result, often rather difficult to comfortably follow. It's a problem that doesn't matter much in the movie's early stages, as director Roger Donaldson does a superb job of infusing the proceedings with a number of thoroughly exciting action sequences - including an above-average car chase that transpires on the streets of a busy European city. There's little doubt, too, that Brosnan's typically charismatic performance goes a long way towards initially keeping things interesting, with the actor's strong work here standing in sharp contrast to the bland and utterly forgettable efforts of his relatively green costar Bracey. Once The November Man progresses into its erratic and oddly meandering midsection, though, it does become more and more difficult to work up any real enthusiasm for or interest in the central character's continuing (and increasingly perilous) exploits - with the less-than-engrossing vibe compounded by an unconvincing romance (to say the least) between Brosnan's Peter and Olga Kurylenko's Alice. The almost impossible-to-follow third act ultimately cements The November Man's place as a misguided thriller that squanders its promising opening stretch, which is a shame, certainly, given that this is as close as we're ever going to get to seeing Brosnan step into the shoes of another British secret agent.