Dennis Rodman shoots — and kicks — but fails to score in “Simon Sez,” a frenetically junky action adventure that will quickly dribble off to vid stores after a token fast break in theatrical release. The flamboyant ex-NBA star, in his first role since his bigscreen debut opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1997’s “Double Team,” isn’t guilty of a personal foul. But Rodman is stuck in a rattletrap star vehicle that recalls the most desperately unfunny spy spoofs of the mid-1960s.
Cast as Simon, an ex-CIA operative now employed as an Interpol agent, Rodman goes through the action-hero smooth moves with athletic dexterity and a reasonable amount of conviction. Even with the nose rings and the rococo tattoos, he is an authoritative screen presence. And it helps a lot that, unlike many of his co-stars, he appears capable of understatement, even subtlety, while delivering dialogue. Call his performance a game effort by an ingratiating amateur, and you won’t be far off the mark.
Simon is conducting surveillance on a notorious arms dealer in a French Riviera town when he’s approached by private eye Nick Miranda (Dane Cook), a half-remembered classmate from CIA training. A U.S. software tycoon has hired Nick — who, not surprisingly, flunked out of the CIA program — to ransom the tycoon’s kidnapped daughter. But Nick is in way over his head, and Simon is reluctantly drawn into helping his not-so-close friend.
Claire (Natalia Cigliuti), the tycoon’s daughter, is in no mood to be rescued, mainly because she hasn’t really been kidnapped. Rather, she’s enjoying a long vacation with her French boyfriend, Michael (Filip Nicolic), whose courtly father (Henri Courseaux) just happened to be — are you sitting down? — an agent of Ashton (Jerome Pradon), the cackling arms merchant long sought by Simon. Michael’s father has faked a kidnapping in order to obtain from Claire’s father a weapons-guidance program. Or something like that.
All of this cues a great deal of rushing hither and yon, a few impressively choreographed fight sequences and a strobe-lit love scene with Rodman and supermodel Emma Sjoberg (effectively cast as a kickboxing adventuress).
On the plus side, French pop star Nicolic makes a promising pic debut as the surprisingly resourceful Michael. On the debit side, there are some laughably chintzy f/x explosions, reams of idiotic dialogue and much cringe-inducing “comic relief.” The latter is provided by three standup comics — Cook as Nick, John Pinette and Ricky Harris as computer-expert monks employed by Simon — who overplay to the point of grotesquerie. As the mincing villain of the piece, Pradon is every bit as obnoxious.
Working from a slapdash script by Andrew Miller and Andrew Lowery, director Kevin Elders keeps the pic fast and loud. But that’s not nearly enough. Lenser Avraham Karpick offers some pleasant views of the Riviera. Other tech credits range from pedestrian to subpar.