“Terminal” is a neo-noir mystery-thriller in the “Sin City/Dark City” vein, a not-exactly-triumph of style over story, surface sheen over coherence.
Built around another bombshell bad-girl turn by Margot Robbie, it’s getting limited release and is destined to be quickly forgotten, lost in the shadow of Robbie’s Oscar-nominated turn in “I, Tonya.”
Even her most ardent fans will be disappointed. Sorry, lads. Not all that much that’s titillating here, either.
Robbie plays Annie, a brunette femme fatale when we meet her, meeting in a confessional with a Mr. Big whom she tells “I want your contracts, all of them.” She’s a hired killer.
Or is she “Bottle Blonde,” the waitress at the End of the Line Cafe, the only thing open all night when wandering, lost, tired of life Bill (Simon Pegg) cannot catch a train, “any train,” out of The Precinct — which is what one and all call this unnamed noirscape.
If the station looks familiar, it’s the same Hungarian setting used in the film “Kontroll.” Yeah, I noticed that. Because “Terminal” demands that we pay the most attention to the lurid, neon-tinged lighting and production design.
We also notice the lone custodian in that terminal is Mike Myers under less old-age makeup than he used to require. He’s the geezer who sends “Bill” to the cafe. After an attempted mugging, which Bill has resisted by being stupidly brave, pedantically confident or simply tired of living.
“I’m very disappointed in both of you!”
Annie, the waitress, is something of a philosopher. Cheerful, pushy, her “Death is by far the best bit of life” gets at Bill’s situation. He, too, is “terminal.”
“It’s not time I’m trying to kill.”
And then there are the murderous mugs (Max Irons, Dexter Fletcher) holed up in a dimly-lit apartment, waiting for an assignment. Which takes them to the terminal AND to the terminal’s diner, where “Bottle Blonde” waits on them as well.
Veteran second unit director Vaughn Stein (“World War Z,” “Sherlock Holmes”) had access to talent and to people who could finance a film, and proves adept at managing a cohesive, distinct look and feel. But his inept story and fumbling efforts to connect the disparate threads of a tale no one cares about make his actors look bad.
Film noir is not just a look, not merely a collection of pithy one-liners. This film plays like an audition reel.
The dialogue is a collection of cliches, inane profundities and tin-eared usages of “fortnight” and the like.
“Way I see it, you got two options.”
“This is what we call in the trade a ‘double-cross.'”
“Who says mystery is a lost art?”
I do. And I’m using “Terminal” as exhibit one in making my case.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity
Cast: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, Max Irons, Dexter Fletcher
Credits: Written and directed by . An RLJ Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:35