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Review: The Debt

Aug. 30, 2011by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: In 1965, three Mossad agents (Sam Worthington, Marton Czokas, & Jessica Chastain) abduct a Nazi War Criminal- with the intention of bringing him back to Israel for trial. In an attempted escape, heís killed, and the three are hailed as heroes. Years later, a secret shared by the three (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Ciaran Hinds) comes back to haunt them and they must pay an old debt before their lives come crumbling down around them.

REVIEW: I went into THE DEBT expecting something on par with Steven Spielbergís underrated classic MUNICH. There are lots of exciting stories to be told from the Mossadís colorful and bloody past, and THE DEBT (while fictional) sounded intriguing. Couple the premise with a canít miss cast including Mirren, Wilkinson, and the newly hot Worthington, what could go wrong?


Plenty it seems. THE DEBT is, for me, one of the most disappointing films Iíve seen in awhile. This should have been a taut, exciting thriller, but instead it plays out like a mediocre HBO telefilm. Itís dull as dust, and for that I imagine the blame has to go to director John Madden. The former SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE helmer does about the same level of work he did with his previous film, KILLSHOT, which sat on the shelf for about three years. While THE DEBT isnít quite as bad as that, itís nonetheless hopelessly mediocre, and filmed in the most boring way imaginable.

Everything about it is by the numbers, and nothing about it distinguishes itself at all. That goes for the cast too. Sure, there are a lot of talented people involved, but the casting is a nightmare as whenever you cast young and old version of the same characters, you need to get people that look alike. Marton Czokas vs. Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain vs. Helen Mirren, and (most laughably) Sam Worthington vs. Ciaran Hinds is not even remotely convincing.


However, at least the older actors have some charisma, with Wilkinson, Mirren, and Hinds all being seemingly incapable of delivering bad performances. However, theyíre only in about 30% of the film (Hindsí role is more or less done by the end of the opening credits), and the rest is devoted to the young team. Of the three, the only one I liked was Czokas, who Iíve always thought was a talented guy from films like GARAGE DAYS, and THE GREAT RAID. Worthington, while capable of giving good performances, also has a tendency towards blandness, and thatís on full display here. The only time he comes to life is when he does some Krav Maga sparring with Czokas. As for Chastain, I didnít find her as personable as the role demanded, and certainly sheís no Mirren.

Iíd say that the remaining thirty percent, featuring a central Mirren is great, but alas, itís not. A development late in the game makes the climax come off as ludicrous, and like something out of a bad TV film from the eighties, and even Mirren looks like she canít believe how schlocky the film is getting.

I really hate that THE DEBT is not a great pic, as the material demands better. This is the type of film someone like William Friedkin should be directing, who could have put some much needed intensity into the proceedings. As it stands, THE DEBT is truly weak, and nothing worth going out of you way to check out. This is a late-night cable watch at most.

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:53PM on 09/24/2010
I want to see more Marton Csokas. The man is grossly underrated.
I want to see more Marton Csokas. The man is grossly underrated.
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+2
7:38PM on 08/31/2011
Yeah, we pretty much agree. I found this to be much too stretched out and slowly paced with a plot that meandered a lot. It tries to get you interested in a love triangle when you should be interested in the mission, but never develops it. Had some good acting though, particularly from Jesper Christensen. Here's the full review:

[link] ">
Yeah, we pretty much agree. I found this to be much too stretched out and slowly paced with a plot that meandered a lot. It tries to get you interested in a love triangle when you should be interested in the mission, but never develops it. Had some good acting though, particularly from Jesper Christensen. Here's the full review:

[link]
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7:47AM on 08/31/2011
Thank you, Chris and americanmoviefan. You have saved me gas money. I was going to travel to see The Debt. But, the film looks like a DVD rental or local matinee. You are Schmoes helping Schmoes.
Thank you, Chris and americanmoviefan. You have saved me gas money. I was going to travel to see The Debt. But, the film looks like a DVD rental or local matinee. You are Schmoes helping Schmoes.
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3:16PM on 08/30/2011

I agree

There's a reason the film was delayed for so long. It's clunky and schlocky. I don't think the film has bad performances, I think the film has bad writing and stilted direction that produced worthless characters that no actor, no matter how good they were, could have livened up. The whole movie feels like an windy overcast day- there's nothing inherently wrong with it, but it's still kinda shitty.
There's a reason the film was delayed for so long. It's clunky and schlocky. I don't think the film has bad performances, I think the film has bad writing and stilted direction that produced worthless characters that no actor, no matter how good they were, could have livened up. The whole movie feels like an windy overcast day- there's nothing inherently wrong with it, but it's still kinda shitty.
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10:51AM on 09/24/2010

bah

At least people acknowledge Sam Worthington is capable of a good performance instead of writing off his performances in bad movies. Expecting a good performance from trash like Clash of the Titans is just redundant.
At least people acknowledge Sam Worthington is capable of a good performance instead of writing off his performances in bad movies. Expecting a good performance from trash like Clash of the Titans is just redundant.
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+0
4:04PM on 09/05/2011
i might be in the minorty here but i really liked it [although i agree about worthington looking laughfulby diffrint then hinds[what were they thinking]
i might be in the minorty here but i really liked it [although i agree about worthington looking laughfulby diffrint then hinds[what were they thinking]
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5:34PM on 10/04/2010

Matthew Vaughn

This is unfortunate news, especially since the movie was written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn and produced by Vaughn. I would expect better from a film with Vaughn behind it, but maybe it would have worked better if Matthew directed the film himself. He's had a pretty good career as a director so far.

I'm going to assume that Peter Straughan, who wrote the mediocre films The Men Who Stare at Goats and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, is largely to blame.

Though Vaughn was
This is unfortunate news, especially since the movie was written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn and produced by Vaughn. I would expect better from a film with Vaughn behind it, but maybe it would have worked better if Matthew directed the film himself. He's had a pretty good career as a director so far.

I'm going to assume that Peter Straughan, who wrote the mediocre films The Men Who Stare at Goats and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, is largely to blame.

Though Vaughn was the producer behind Guy Ritchie's Swept Away. I'm sure everyone involved would rather forget that.
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