British Special Boat Service commando John Stratton is tasked with chasing down Russian exile Grigory Barovsky who is on a mission to bomb London.
Apart from its star Dominic Cooper, Stratton's biggest selling point is its director, Con Air helmer Simon West.
The 1997 film, which famously starred Nicolas Cage, is a cult action classic but his follow-up films, which include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Jason Statham vehicles The Mechanic, The Expendables 2, have failed to achieve quite the same status.
Cooper was keen to carve out a Bond-style franchise with the British thriller, which is based on a series of novels by Duncan Falconer, with Cooper cast as the lead character John Stratton.
Stratton is a part of the British Special Boat Service, which apparently inspired the creation of U.S. Navy Seals.
Based on The Hostage, the first book in Falconer's eight-book series, the film opens with Stratton on a mission alongside his American partner to track down an international terrorist cell with support from British stars Tom Felton and Gemma Chan.
Unfortunately quite predictably, the mission goes pear-shaped, Stratton’s partner dies, and he returns to England with the knowledge that someone has blown his cover.
After getting paired up with a suspicious new partner, who was friends with his previous sidekick, Stratton heads back to MI5 headquarters to meet with his superior Sumner (Danish actress Connie Nielsen), whose cut-glass British accent unfortunately caused a few titters.
Veteran British actor Derek Jacobi, who appears as Stratton’s old sea dog neighbour Ross, and a sort of surrogate father to the former reformed youth turned crack commando, is one of the movie’s few highlights stealing every scene he shares with Cooper.
The action is definitely packed into the 95-minute movie, including a heart-stopping underwater set piece, a car chase around an Italian city, and a hijacked bus careering around London with an explosive carrying drone.
But despite Cooper’s efforts, it’s about as close Bond as Mr. Bean in a tuxedo.
Cooper is no Daniel Craig, and is often hampered by cheesy dialogue and he doesn’t quite exhibit the necessary charisma needed to break out as the lead of an action franchise.
Humans actress Chan is something of a Moneypenny to Cooper’s Stratton, as she assists him in gathering intelligence against baddie Grigory Barovsky (Thomas Kretschmann), while clearly nursing a crush on the black-clad commando. But at times she displays the emotional intensity of her robot character in the Channel 4 show, and lacks any chemistry with her onscreen love interest.
Bond it is not and it’s unlikely Stratton will shed the spectre of this damp squib of a debut to rule the waves again as Britain’s next top super spy.
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