My Eva Mendes retrospective came to an unexpected end due to the fact that Netflix ran out of Eva Mendes flicks. Instead, I took the old dartboard approach and picked today’s movie entirely at random. Won’t be doing that again.
Stick with FedEx next time.
An anonymous courier known to be able to find anyone is coerced into delivering a suitcase to an infamous crime lord named Evil Sivle. Nobody knows where Evil Sivle is, and every step the courier takes only seems to lead to more bodies. As he gets inexorably closer to his quarry, the job begins to take a mysterious turn. Befuddlement ensues.
There are some actors who you think can make just about anything watchable. For me, that list includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He reminds me of the actors who played those tough guy roles back in the sixties and seventies. In fact, if there was ever going to be a remake of Every Which Way But Loose, I’d probably want Morgan to play Philo. I can’t think of anyone else around these days who could do a better job. There are some actors who can make just about anything watchable, but after sitting through The Courier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is pushing his luck.
The Courier is not a good film. The main problem is that it doesn’t even know what kind of film it is. The first half looks and feels like a feature-length pilot episode for a knock-off of The Transporter, only with more hacking and fewer fancy cars. It’s got all the ingredients: the rugged hero who is an expert at his job but otherwise socially retarded; the older mentor who seems to know everybody in the city’s underworld; the mentor’s cute goddaughter who just so happens to be a pilot… If it wasn’t for the courier’s occasional lapse into the swearier side of the English language, I would have been looking out for the ad breaks. But then after the halfway point, the movie takes a turn from out of nowhere, shifting from Transporter-lite to a cross between The Usual Suspects and Angel Heart, only with none of those films’ style or effectiveness.
It’s going to be hard to talk about this flick’s problems without spoiling the ending (although astute readers may have already got the hint) so I’m just going to come right out with it. Skip down a bit if you don’t want to know. Still here? Okay, the courier is Evil Sivle, but he doesn’t seem to know that himself until the end. Years ago, Evil Sivle was a small-time hood with his friend Maxwell. Maxwell killed Evil Sivle’s wife, tried to kill him, and took away his young son. Maxwell later adopted the name Evil Sivle for himself, creating a legend while raising the real Evil’s son as his own. The new Evil Sivle now lives in Las Vegas and has an occasional gig singing in a casino lounge. Hey, what’s Evil Sivle spelt backwards? Yeah.
You can come back now.
So, where do I start? Director Hany Abu-Assad (whose Paradise Now won a ton of awards for Best Foreign Language film back in 2006) tries to create a thematic element throughout by including a lot of reflections. Barely ten minutes seem to go by without the courier looking in a mirror, even going so far as to punch one out once the truth becomes clear to him. The problem is that so many movies show the battered hero examining his bruises in a mirror that these moments only come together in hindsight, and even then the payoff is almost cringeworthy.
Morgan and the rest of the cast try their best, but there is only so much you can do with this kind of material. Mark Margolis and Josie Ho work well with Morgan as the mentor and love interest respectively, but Til Schweiger – who is also credited as one of the movie’s 73 producers, executive producers, co-executive producers, co-producers and associate producers – is miscast as the FBI agent who recruits the courier in the first place. Mickey Rourke plays the big slab of ham also known as Evil Sivle with an equal mix of boredom and relish. The movie tries to keep him shrouded in mystery by not showing his face until the final few scenes. Rourke’s voice is so obvious though that it is an entirely wasted gesture. Either that or they only had Mickey for a couple of days and the early scenes were all shot with a double, or am I just a hopeless cynic? The film gets a bit of a kick from Miguel Ferrer and Lili Taylor as the married henchmen with a fondness for philosophising while they torture people for information. It’s just a shame they aren’t around a bit more.
Rookie screenwriters Pete Dris and Brandon Coombs have an intriguingly loose relationship with logic, but their dialogue is overly reliant on cliche and contrivance. Despite its flaws, I was a bit too baffled to really dislike The Courier. It’s not good, but it’s so blatant about it that I can’t help but give it a pass. Now that I think about it though, there is a remote possibility that the entire film is actually a straight-faced parody of the genre(s) it is trying to emulate. I wonder…