For some time now, AMC Grapevine Mills (and, to a lesser extent, its sister theater in Arlington’s Parks Mall) has been setting aside a screen or two to show modestly budgeted genre films as a form of counterprogramming to Hollywood blockbusters that dominate the multiplexes. As you might expect, the results have been mixed. On one hand, we’ve had the chance to see the likes of These Final Hours and Echoes of War and find better entertainment value than the big films. On the other, there’s been a good share of pure dross like Survivor, an action thriller that’s every bit as generic as its name.
Milla Jovovich stars as Kate Abbott, a foreign service officer who’s just been put in charge of diplomatic security at the U.S. embassy in London, screening visa applications for Britons looking to travel to America. Through sheer luck, Kate narrowly misses being caught in a bomb explosion that kills most of her co-workers, and when she meets up with the only other colleague (Robert Forster) who’s still alive, he tries to shoot her. Eventually, she traces the terrorism to a shadowy bomb-maker (Pierce Brosnan) who’s planning a much larger attack.
As an action-thriller, this thing is laughable, despite its air of dead seriousness and the serious talent that’s on screen (Dylan McDermott as Kate’s boss, Angela Bassett as the American ambassador, James D’Arcy as a Scotland Yard detective). Having fallen a long way since he helmed V for Vendetta, director James McTeigue repeatedly stumbles over the action sequences. Kate’s struggle with her murderous colleague is impossible to follow, and in her climactic fight with the bomb-maker, their moves are so slow that it seems a sedated kitten could outpunch them.
Not helping matters is Philip Shelby’s brain-dead script. When Kate raises a stink about a suspicious Romanian doctor (Roger Rees) who wants to travel to New York, neither she nor anyone else thinks it odd that a general practitioner has enough pull to get the British Home Secretary agitating for Kate to approve his visa. The prologue set in Afghanistan is so tangential to the story that you wonder what it’s even doing there. Even more appalling is the way Kate sneaks back into the embassy when both the Americans and the British are hunting for her as a terrorist — she lifts up a metal door. Seriously, that’s all she has to do to get into an embassy that’s on full lockdown. Who’s the head of security here, Paul Blart?
In an indistinct cast, Brosnan is out of place as a grizzled bad guy, but then it’s hard to blame him, because he has nothing to play. I can blame Jovovich, though, for playing this character as someone who’s way too easily rattled for the position that she’s in. Other characters waste verbiage telling us how extremely capable Kate is, and we see none of it. Bereft of ideas, wit, or good execution, Survivor deserves to die at the box office.
Starring Milla Jovovich and Pierce Brosnan. Directed by James McTeigue. Written by Philip Shelby. Rated PG-13.[/box_info]