Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 16, 2020)
Because he won an Oscar for 2017’s Darkest Hour, one might expect Gary Oldman to get his pick of “A”-list projects. Apparently one would expect incorrectly, as the subsequent two years found Oldman in a slew of “direct to video” projects.
A boy’s gotta pay the bills, I guess. 2019’s The Courier finds Oldman in yet another of these “B” movies.
Brutal crime lord Ezekiel Mannings (Oldman) finds himself arrested for his various misdeeds. Nick Murch (Amit Shah) plans to testify against Ezekiel, and a task force seeks to keep this prime witness safe.
To thwart this, Ezekiel hires a courier (Olga Kurylenko) to deliver a package meant to kill Nick. She does so without foreknowledge of what her delivery intends.
When the courier learns of her deadly mission, she switches sides. The courier saves Nick and fights against the odds to keep him alive.
No one will call this an inventive plot, as it dates back to Westerns, if not much earlier. Still, a battle against seemingly insurmountable forces comes with basic action potential.
Unfortunately, no one involved with Courier bothers to explore the material beyond the standard clichés. We get nary a new idea on display in this trite, banal attempt at a thriller.
I’d guess Oldman took the job because it required little effort. The vast majority of his scenes take place in one location, so I’d bet he only needed to work two or three days for his paycheck.
I can’t imagine Oldman accepted the role because he found it to offer a creative challenge. Oldman can play a villain part like Mannings in his sleep, and he never exerts any real effort during his sporadic on-screen moments.
Best-known as a ”Bond Girl” for her role in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Kurylenko shows more of a pulse, probably because I assume she relished the opportunity to take on a lead role as a strong character. She provides a competent performance, but I can’t claim she adds much to the part or becomes a compelling action hero.
Not that Kurylenko flops, as she does her best to hold up her end of the bargain. I just don’t think she boasts the requisite chops and charisma to pull off the role to best advantage.
Given the thin nature of the script, however, I don’t know anyone else who would make Courier shine, as it offers a by-the-numbers action thriller. The film barely attempts an actual plot, as it primarily consists of cat and mouse scenes of violence.
Oh, Courier occasionally attempts a little exposition or character development, such as a scene in which we get a little backstory about the courier. However, most of these stabs at drama feel half-hearted at best – or pointless, like an odd sequence in which Mannings’ daughter (Calli Taylor) taunts an agent (Craig Conway).
Not every movie needs a taut story to succeed, and Courier could’ve gotten by on basic action energy. It doesn’t, as the various thriller beats feel perfunctory and unimaginative.
We also find cliché cinematic techniques from start to finish. We get standard hyperactive camerawork and “urgent” music, all intended to convince us that we’re watching a dynamic action flick.
These methods don’t work, and we never find any reason to invest in Courier. Throw in a mix of glaring plot holes and this becomes a subpar thriller.