RLJE FILMS / ARROW FILMS (2018)
Director: Vaughn Stein
Starring: Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, Dexter Fletcher, Max Irons
Stepping out of the assistant director’s chair and into the main seat for the first time, Vaughn Stein’s debut offering is the neon-noir, hyper-stylish Terminal. Written by Stein and produced by leading lady Margot Robbie, the movie boasts a more than solid cast and had all the makings of a throwback to femme fatales and grimy indie thrillers of years gone by.
It had the makings, at least.
In a dirty, neon-lit city, two assassins – Vince (Fletcher) and Alfred (Irons) – are hired by a cryptic, infamous crime lord for a job that will set them up for life. Across town in a rundown diner, terminally ill teacher Bill (Pegg) debates the merits of living with sultry waitress Annie (Robbie) whilst creepy janitor Clinton (Myers) goes about his business in the adjacent train station. What none of them realise is that they all have a part to play in a much larger web of revenge and murder – or do some of them already know?
The first thing I thought about Terminal after seeing it was, “I’m not sure if I enjoyed that or not.” There are some fine moments sprinkled throughout the lean runtime, but the movie itself is a cluttered, convoluted mess. It’s needlessly twisty and does too much in its attempts to build and maintain a level of mystery – leaving a strange ending that bolts out of the blue, once you’ve got past the other three of four endings that come before. It’s another grimy, futuristic setting to get lost in, and whilst it looks better than previous offerings (Hi Mute) it just feels like more of the same at times. On the other hand, Margot Robbie smoulders and shimmers as the alluring femme fatale, her knack for playing unhinged characters continues. There’s an interesting idea in Terminal, but it’s just not executed well.
For a movie with a runtime of ninety minutes, it doesn’t half drag at times, and that’s partly due to the convoluted, non-linear narrative that Stein employs. The movie jumps backwards and forwards and between two storylines (more if you include the subplots with Clinton and the crime lord) and frustratingly by the time the movie ends, it’s clear that the majority of characters were simply just there to get the story to its jarring conclusion. Their inclusions and actions pretty much brushed under the carpet. There’s some good dialogue here though, the vast majority belonging to Robbie who plays the sexpot fatale excellently – her magnetism steals every scene she is in and she is responsible for the movies better moments. The characters do generally feel generic and cartoony on the whole, though, the assassins jive with an outdated Guy Ritchie vibe and Mike Myers was straight up weird.
Neon lights crackle all around and the pulsing score from Rupert Gregson-Williams layers each scene with a dirty electro mood and the familiarity this brings, just recently Mute, What Happened to Monday, Ghost in the Shell and, of course, Blade Runner 2049 have given us this same aesthetic and tone, and Terminal really doesn’t add an awful lot to the picture in this sense.
Terminal doesn’t thunder with the fury of Sin City or the wryness of Tarantino, but the intent is certainly there. With the cast on show, I really wanted to like this movie, but I was just confused and slightly disappointed. When Robbie is on screen, the movie is at its best and she twists, turns and seduces the audience and characters, but even she can’t save Terminal from the neon abyss.
June 5th 2018