Elvis comes to mind whilst watching the shoot-em-up “Code Name Banshee.”
“A little less conversation, a little more action, please,” he’d sing. “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me. A little more bite, a little less bark…”
After a couple of opening shoot-outs, this straight-up C-movie — directed by Jon Keeyes, scripted by Matthew Rogers — flops into lots and lots of cliche-riddled conversation, some time line stumbles (“Five years earlier,” or is it?) and finishes with a whole lot of gunfire, most of it by The Character Who Never Reloads.
That would be the title character, played by “Sin City” and “Pearl Harbor” alumna Jaime King. In a short haircut punching way above her model-slim bodyweight, she has the Ruby Rose role in this implausible and mostly-dull actioner about CIA assassins, high-priced “contracts,” accused “traitors” going off the grid and our heroine hunting for them, because one is or was her dad and the other was her mentor.
Banshee beats up and threatens her apparent CIA “control” (Kim DeLonghi) in an opening scene — in the woman’s OFFICE, mind you. Her father was either killed or went dark after passing on “assets” to the Russians, or so she’s told. His partner and her mentor (Antonio Banderas) disappeared as well.
Funny thing about this screenplay, it never actually clears the whole “treason” thing up. That just sits there, uninvestigated and unresolved. Perhaps Merrick Garland is “on it.”
Banshee works with the modern action pic’s laziest deus ex machina, the all-knowing, all-systems-controlling hacker (Aleksander Vayshelboym). He tracks down the untrackable and guides her into villains’ lairs, where they’re aced out of a contract by some under-explained goon (Tommy Flanagan) and his huge payroll of armed thugs.
The only thing that can solve and settle all this is finding her former mentor.
Naturally, Caleb (Banderas) has slipped into some old, suburban town where he runs a bar. Naturally, he is widowed, with a teen daughter (Catherine Davis) who doesn’t know his past, but should suspect something, as Dad has trained her in martial arts and with his arsenal of firearms.
Naturally, Caleb doesn’t want to be found, doesn’t want to get involved and has no interest in clearing his name because, again, that whole “treason” plot thread has been pretty much abandoned.
“There eees mooooooooooore to life than contract killing,” he purrs. But that wisdom comes too late. If she can find him, so can the Irish Eliminator that Flanagan plays.
The story beats are strictly formula, with a few ingredients missing. Somehow, there’s always time to gawk at and fetishize some “professional’s” vast arsenal of weapons, and joke about them.
Truth be told, no action picture with Banderas and the always-working Flanagan (“Westworld,” “There Are No Saints,” “Sand Castle”) in it is a total write-off. Banderas makes every line a world-weary Spanish-accented thrill. And Flanagan breaks out his most his menacing brogue for every syllable.
“How many ye’got,” he growls to a minion? “Enough,” the minion underestimates.
It’s never enough, especially when the Big Finish features 110 pound women throwing 190-220 pound goons around, especially when one of those women Never Ever Reloads.
Rating: unrated, graphic violence
Cast: Jaime King, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Davis, Aleksander Vayshelboym, Kim DeLonghi and Tommy Flanagan
Credits: Directed by Jon Keeyes, scripted by Matthew Rogers. A Screen Media release.
Running time: 1:32