Review: The Debt
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, hes 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 Spielbergs underrated classic MUNICH. There are lots of exciting stories to be told from the Mossads colorful and bloody past, and THE DEBT (while fictional) sounded intriguing. Couple the premise with a cant 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 Ive seen in awhile. This should have been a taut, exciting thriller, but instead it plays out like a mediocre HBO telefilm. Its 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 isnt quite as bad as that, its 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, theyre only in about 30% of the film (Hinds 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 Ive 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 thats 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 didnt find her as personable as the role demanded, and certainly shes no Mirren.
Id say that the remaining thirty percent, featuring a central Mirren is great, but alas, its 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 cant 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.
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