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The 355

***
2022

‘…falls short of providing a genuine alternative to the traditional male-driven action thriller….’

Sisters are doing it for themselves; it’s become a thing of late to reboot and recast popular films with an all-female cast, and herald it as a break-though in terms of sexual politics. But just remaking properties like Ghostbusters or Oceans 11 with a selection of female stars doesn’t quite do the trick; it would be nice to see a female-driven blockbuster that isn’t a cast-off from a male property already driven into the mud. So while Simon Kinberg’s action thriller ticks some of the progressive boxes, including female screen-writer Theresa Rebeck, it falls short of providing a genuine alternative to the traditional male-driven action thriller.

Problems show from the opening scene; how many thrillers open with a dull discussion on the McGuffin in question? In this case, it’s a rote hard-drive device which can hack any cyber-security, cause planes to drop from the skies and other atrocities. The device is much sought after, and US agent Mace (Jessica Chastain) drops the ball while in pursuit of this object in Paris. Mace recruits old MI-6 pal Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), psychologist and anxious Colombian (Penelope Cruz somehow) and tough-nut rival Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger) to save the world. But Mac’s boyfriend Nick (Sebastian Stan) is MIA, and there’s increasing evidence that Mace should never have trusted him in the first place…

The 355 is watchable enough, with the action flitting from Paris to Shanghai, and the usual predictable CGI excitements. But aside from the uber-glam, with is to the max, there’s little else to distinguish this from the usual product; each character barely has a couple of traits to describe, and there’s only a few scenes in which their feline wiles and intuition make any difference. In fact, the film’s emotional core is rather haphazard; Cruz rapidly goes to pieces under real pressure when her family are threatened, but the supposedly grounded Nyong’o makes a ridiculous hairpin switch from tearfully mourning her ex to slavering to go on the next crazy adventure. Notably, the explanation of who and what the 355 codename refers to, front and centre in trailers, isn’t included until the final scene; as often is the case, this is all wind up and no actual throw, and any good times are postponed until a sequel cames around…

That said, The 355 just about passes muster as a Saturday night action spectacular, mainly due to the personable leads and nice assists from Edgar Ramirez and Fan Bingbing, all adding to the international allure. But as a franchise, this seems DOA, largely due to a lack of confidence in the material, a minimal gap between cinema and streaming release in the US and audience low turnout; maybe something more original is required to hit the cultural sweet-spot than such shop-worn, hand-me-down one-size-fits-all concepts.

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  1. As much as i like women in action movies taking lead roles i am of the unpopular opinion that the trend of genderswapping just for ticking the right boxes is starting to get old…

    • That opinion may become more popular; this is a generic male action flick with women playing the central roles. I can’t see anything original about it, so the result is stale…

  2. “it falls short of providing a genuine alternative to the traditional male-driven action thriller.”
    That’s because this is a movie about men who just happen to have lady parts instead. Melanie pretty much covered this in her comment though, so I don’t feel the need to expound.

  3. If you’re going for action ladies you can’t get better than Angelina Jolie really. Wanted, SALT, The Tourist, Mr & Mrs Smith, even Tomb Raider. She didn’t need to do men’s roles and apart from Charlize Theron I don’t think many of these latest lady actioneers can match up.

    • SALT and Mrs and Mrs Smith in particular are just fantastic action movies; you’re totally correct, Jolie has sewen this genre up.

  4. You defined it pretty well. Acceptable fare if you’re deprived of old-fashioned action ie not supermonsters and superheroes taking a chunk out of the world. But too many character and not enough that’s new. On this form though someone should reunite Diane Kruger with Liam neeson.

    • I can’t think of any bad work by Kruger to date. But agree, there’s just not enough spin here to make it different…

            • I’m with you – these movies where women are just plugged into male roles do very little for me. Give them center stage in roles made for women—-The Women, Little Women, and Bad Moms (such a great movie) are all great examples.

              • I’d be happy to do an in depth commentary track on Bad Moms, one of the unheralded masterworks of the 21st century.

                  • And yet, I don’t rate A Bad Mom’s Christmas so highly, which I think indicates a high degree of impartiality on my part. The original was best.

                    • Yes, the joke is funniest the first time you hear it. When I first watched the movie, I paused it and called my best friend (a mom) because it reminded me so much of her. It’s not funny because of empty gags – it’s funny because it truly touches a nerve and has something to say about modern parenting. I don’t have kids so people want to hear exactly 0 of my parenting advice, but Bad Moms definitely taps into that central idea that meeting the standards of today’s parenting ideals are essentially impossible, especially for mothers. And you could make Bad Dads, but it would have to be a different movie altogether to make any sense at all.

                    • Yup, there’s a unique energy about Bad Moms, that makes a success out of admitting and sharing failure. The scene of them wrecking supermarket aisles to Charlie XV whatever is iconic. I don’t think you have to be a mom; parenthood is like the Korean War in MASH, it drives you mad unless you can let off some steam…

              • There are other examples and I realize with action and superheroes being such a key part of the marketplace it’s fair to give women a crack at that, but, just as with many male action films – The Kings Man, for example – the films just miss the target. But give it up for Diane Kruger.

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