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Film Review: ‘The Courier’

Olga Kurylenko battles bad guy Gary Oldman's hitmen in this loud, witless actioner.

The Courier
Gareth Gatrell

You don’t expect subtlety from a movie whose very first second consists of the heroine getting a fist to her face, or whose poster suggests the real “star” is her leather-clad posterior. Still, a bagful o’ hammers might provide exactly the same amount and type of entertainment value as “The Courier.” This stridently dumb action thriller has Olga Kurylenko as the titular figure protecting an investigation witness (Amit Shah) from the minions of an international bad guy (Gary Oldman).

Director Zackary Adler’s sixth clock-punching feature in four years is the kind of enterprise in which characters are usually yelling at each other, and every footfall gets a Dolby thump. Labored but nonetheless slick enough to check the right boxes for home viewers seeking basic macho entertainment, it opens on 10 theatrical screens Nov. 22, day-and-date with on-demand release. This won’t be anyone’s new guilty-pleasure favorite, however, particularly since the majority of its violent action is limited to one dreary subterranean parking garage.

Wide-eyed fraidy cat Nick (Shah from “The Hundred Foot Journey” and much Brit TV) is a nobody who had the misfortune of stumbling upon Ezekiel Mannings (Gary Oldman) in the act of killing an associate. He’s thus the sole living witness to any crime committed by one of the world’s most powerful evil men. While Mannings pulls strings despite New York house-arrest status, Nick is kept under heavy guard for his imminent testimony to an investigative joint task force in London.

Unfortunately for Nick, those guards are led by Interpol agent Simmonds (Alicia Agneson), a turncoat working for the equally duplicitous Agent Bryant (William Moseley), who covertly answers to Mannings. The only reason Nick doesn’t die in an immediate melee of cyanide and bullets is because a nameless motorcycle courier with unstoppable-killing-machine capabilities (Kurylenko) gets involved, saving his bacon.

The two don’t make it any further than the building’s aforementioned parking garage, however. There, they spend the rest of the movie fighting off musclebound assassins, as well as Moseley (“The Royals”), who primarily flexes his hambone. Much blood is spilt, everybody double-crosses everyone else, and the movie ends with a guns-cocked freeze-frame, leaving no anvil undropped.

The stuntman/MMA types cast as hitmen are probably working up to their acting potential. But apart from Kurylenko, who’s game enough to almost pull off a preposterous role, the name actors are not done any favors here. The more dastardly their characters are meant to be (including Calli Taylor as Oldman’s Valley Girl-voiced daughter), the worse their sneering performances.

If initially the technically polished film at least seems globe-trotting and splashy enough to serve as diverting trash, that full hour in the parking garage does tend to wear one down.
Adding to the general bombast is a lot of witless dialogue (at one low point, Oscar winner Oldman has to put his all into “It’s a goddam shit show! Shit!”), and a cluttered soundtrack of too much on-the-nose scoring and preexisting tracks. To illustrate the latter, early on we get an aerial view of a distinctive spired structure, then the onscreen text “St. Anthony’s Cathedral, New York City.” Yet because we apparently still might not realize it’s a church, someone must be heard trilling “Ave Maria.”

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Film Review: ‘The Courier’

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 20, 2019. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

  • Production: (U.K.-U.S.) A Lionsgate release of a Capstone Pictures, Signature, Rollercoaster Angel production. Producers: James Edward Barker, Marc Goldberg, David Haring, Andrew Prendergast. Executive producers: Wayne Marc Godfrey, Elizabeth Williams, Douglas Urbanski, Christian Mercuri, Zackary Adler.
  • Crew: Director: Zackary Adler. Screenplay: Andy Conway, Nicky Tate, Adler, James Edward Barker, from a story by Adler, Barker, Andrew Prendergast. Camera (color/B&W, widescreen, HD): Michel Abramowicz. Editor: Nick McCahearty. Music: Barker, Tim Despic.
  • With: Olga Kurylenko, Gary Oldman, Amit Shah , Alicia Agneson, Greg Orvis, Craig Conway, William Moseley, Dermot Mulroney, Calli Taylor, Lee Charles, Gordon Alexander.
  • Music By: