In Paris, jobbing pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) finds himself unwittingly caught up in a terrorist plot, when he accidentally steals a bomb. CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) must shoot and punch his way to the truth.
Given recent events, a schlocky action film about terrorist attacks in Paris might seem a tad inappropriate. But Bastille Day – filmed before the Charlie Hebdo/Bataclan tragedies – is far too daft to warrant outrage.
One scene at a mosque perhaps oversteps the mark, but otherwise it’s pleasingly silly, weaving a vaguely conspiratorial plot about corrupt police destabilising the French government via social media (choice line: ”RELEASE THE HASHTAG!”), with only a pair of heroic Americans able to halt their nefarious plans.
It rarely makes sense, but you're never bored.
British director James Watkins, known for more low-key work like Eden Lake and The Woman In Black, embraces noisy action genre tropes with lip-smacking enthusiasm, emphasising pace and thrills over coherence or consistency. There’s set pieces here to rival the likes of Bourne or Bond (with a fraction of their budgets). A rooftop chase across Parisian tiles, in particular, is impressively staged and palm-sweatingly pacy.
Driving things forward with grunting fury is Idris Elba’s gruff CIA hero, a reckless and insubordinate rogue agent – if only because the genre demands it. Many will coo that this is Elba’s Bond audition, and while that logic holds some water, it feels like more of a move towards Jason Statham territory. The Dris shares a lot of traits with The Stath: an eternal grimace; a brawny physique; a charmingly inept American accent... Forget Bond: we need to see Big Dris in a Crank-style action-a-palooza.
It rarely makes sense – the script vastly overestimates the power of the hashtag as a weapon of mass destruction – but you’re never bored.