From the classic film Topkapi (1964) to Ocean’s 11 (the original 1960 version or the terrific 2001 remake) to Mission Impossible and the Fast & Furious mega-franchise, a motley crew of criminals teaming up to take down an even bigger criminal has long been a staple of action cinema. It’s no surprise, though; between them, the Fast & Furious and Mission Impossible films alone have generated billions in box office and ancillary revenue.
The formula’s easy: Attractive, wise-cracking crooks, martial arts of some sort, guns, a token tech wizard, gorgeous locations, fancy cars, and a hip-hop soundtrack. Throw in a story that keeps the action at such a breakneck pace you don’t have time to think about the underlying illogic of the story and you too can achieve action film nirvana. Better yet, you can deliver a genre film without being part of an existing franchise. Ensure you’ve lined up a budget for great visual effects and it’s like printing money.
The fun and highly entertaining new action film The Misfits offers just this formula. Starring ex-007 Pierce Brosnan as world-weary conman Richard Pace, he ends up part of a team that includes tech wizard and explosives expert Wick (Mike Angelo), martial arts expert Violet (Jamie Chung), tough guy driver Ringo (Nick Cannon), Richard’s charity-focused daughter Hope (Hermione Corfield), and maybe royalty, maybe just another conman The Prince (Rami Jaber). The heist: Stealing millions in gold bars kept hidden under one of the most secure prisons on Earth and used for funding terrorist groups worldwide.
Sound like the crew from the latest Fast & Furious film? It’s pretty astonishingly close, though perhaps an even closer match would be the Oceans Eleven series, with patriarch Danny Ocean (George Clooney) riding herd on his gang of beautiful criminals for the next precision crime. The Misfits is ridiculously derivative, even to a passing homage to The Maltese Falcon (1941) that is hard to miss. Filmed mostly in Abu Dhabi, it plays up the futuristic downtown and resort amenities we’re now used to seeing in action films from the last decade.
The problem with the genre, of course, is that there’s no real peril so while the action sequences are breathtaking, they’re really just an homage to skilled visual effects and fast-paced editing. No one really gets hurt and injuries are often played off for comic relief, with the characters invariably healed and recovered in the very next scene. To be fair, this is true of many cinematic genres; heroes don’t really get hurt in movies.
There is a plot to The Misfits, an elaborate heist that involves the team sneaking into a secure prison facility, breaking into the hidden vault where millions in gold is stored, and smuggling the gold out safely. As with most action films, the story is just an excuse to connect a parade of action sequences together in a way that more-or-less makes sense. Watch the film and you’ll have at least a few questions about exactly how some of the story elements were supposed to happen but if you’re looking that closely, you might be missing the point of the film entirely.
Instead sit back with a martini – shaken, not stirred – and enjoy beautiful people joking with each other as they succeed at a daring heist against stupid, one-dimensional villains in gorgeous locations. If you can bring that sensibility to the table, and you probably already do if you’ve made it through all eight of the Fast & Furious films, then I predict you’re going to quite enjoy The Misfits. Recommended.
Dad At The Movies Note: This is an action film entirely suitable for teens and older, if not the entire family. It’s rated “R” but I’m pretty sure that’s just for language, it’s otherwise quite benign and will keep everyone entertained.