Review: Even Idris Elba can’t save this cheap and mediocre knock-off

Idris Elba in Bastille Day
Idris Elba in Bastille Day

Matt Adcock reviews Bastille Day, starring Idris Elba

Meet Sean Briar (Idris ‘Luther’ Elba) – a maverick CIA Agent described as “reckless and irresponsible” in his official assessment. When a bomb is stolen and kills innocent people on the streets of Paris, Briar goes off the deep end punching, shooting and generally cutting a swathe of destruction across the city in order to stop the criminals behind it.

Unwillingly aided by desperate pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard ‘Game of Thrones’ Madden), the scene is set for a buddy action race against the clock to foil a daring violent heist.

Alas it’s just not very good. Director James ‘Eden Lake’ Watkins throws ideas at the screen like his life depends on it but even with Elba going ‘full Die Hard’ this can’t rise above the level of generic ho-hum. Whilst hardly high art, this is the sort of film that Luc Besson does with brutal style, and so it’s dispiriting that Watkins’ effort feels like a cheap knock off.

British actress Kelly ‘True Detective’ Reilly gives a good account of herself but is under used. Unfortunately the other supporting cast are pretty dismal and that includes the laughable main bad guy who comes across like an out-of-shape French Robert Downey Jr.

To be fair not all the action scenes are poor and there is one exciting rooftop chase which wouldn’t look out of place in a bigger budget action film. There are also elements of cinematography by Tim ‘Snatch’ Maurice-Jones that work but gaping plot holes and a frankly shoddy ‘climax’ make this one Bastille Day that won’t be celebrated by many.

At least Elba isn’t the problem (well, not until he starts singing and rapping over the end credits which is beyond cringe) – it’s everything else that lets the side down.

It massively undoes any tension when you can’t help but smirk at the ‘edgy’ subtitles which repeatedly show the hashtags used by the baddies to stir up public violence and disorder. The writers should take a look at themselves after making Elba and co try and keep straight faces in the face of this lazy plot device. Such shoddy, lazy writing shouldn’t be tolerated.

This isn’t a terminal headshot for Elba’s action film credentials but it is certainly a film you don’t need to waste your time on. Not so much ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’, more ‘l’action moyenne médiocre’.

* Tweet Matt at @Cleric20