Good Crooks Go Bad As Pierce Brosnan Steals the Gold Meant for ‘The Misfits’
“The Misfits” is a golden oldie masquerading as contemporary classic and earns its name in the bait and switch. Pierce Brosnan plays a legendary international thief named Richard Pace. From what we see in the film, he seems to have earned his reputation by stealing very expensive watches. He recently escaped from a federal maximum-security prison, only to be sentenced to a twisty caper flick which can’t make the pieces fit no matter how many corners get cut in the editing.
Brosnan brings the weight of his cinematic past to a light modern action filler. But he doesn’t throw it around. For most of the film, he is winking at the audience, internally mouthing his lines with his tongue planted deeply in his cheek. He, like his character, appears to be doing the film as an excuse to hang out in the sun with a younger, hipper crowd. But more than that, Brosnan looks like he did it to play with their toys. He gets the high-octane car chases, the testosterone-generating daredevil escapes, and even some fun repartee with actors as empirically attractive as he is.
The Misfits are thick as thieves, but runway-slim, perfectly shaped and oddly misguided. They are a skilled team of badass motherfuckers who want to do good for the children, and the children’s children. They steal from the rich and give to the poor, but they don’t want to be called the Robin Hoods, and balk at tagging themselves a Motley Crew. We are led into their world by their lead larcenist, Ringo (Nick Cannon). Yes, he admits he named himself after Ringo Starr, and not the old-school, old West gunslinger. Ringo can’t be a spokesman for the group, because their claim to fame is not getting famous, but he is an enthusiastic narrator. He sells the story like a timeshare. The best thieves are the ones you never hear about because their robberies never get reported.
The other Misfits include an explosives expert named Wick (Mike Angelo), who likes to scare ghosts with firecrackers; a con artist called The Prince (Rami Jaber) who may or may not be heir to a country; and a gravity-defying martial arts expert named Violet (Jamie Chung), who appears to stick around just to beat on people. The caper was put together by Pace’s estranged daughter Hope (Hermione Corfield), who does it to resolve her daddy issues.
The group kidnaps Pace in an attempt to get him to join them in the heist of the century. They want to steal millions of dollars in gold bars. Not for their worth, but because it’s the right thing to do. Pace, being a professional thief, initially laughs at the premise, but sticks around for the four-star hotel accommodations and fast cars.
“The Misfits” is director Renny Harlin’s 25th movie, and follows his structural procedures to the letter. This gives it the feel of a quickly made update of something he passed on in the ‘90s to do “Die Hard 2,” “Cliffhanger,” or “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” He contemporised the motion with drone shots, flash cuts, slow-motion explosions, fast-motion dune buggy chases, and occasionally amusing cutaway gags. Borrowing liberally from the tone of films like “Oceans 11” and “Tower Heist,” but with a “Fast and Furious” pace car, screenwriters Robert Henny and Kurt Wimmer deliver a poolside version of a cutting-edge heist movie.
There is a cache of extremely shiny gold bars in a vault inside Abu Dhabi’s Dola Penal Institute, a private prison owned and run by a British builder named Schultz (Tim Roth). This mysterious but indistinguishable, all-purpose villain also runs the prison Pace broke out of, on the day before he was officially supposed to be released. Why does Pace break out of prison with less than 24 hours to go on his sentence? Shultz believes he “just had something to do that day.” But the audience knows it is just to flex the muscles of his myth, just like Brosnan flashes his mischievous Remington Steele grin, and stirs his James Bond martini in “The Misfits.”
Schultz is “in bed” with “bin Laden’s successor,” doing “all kinds of freaky shit” with “KY jelly,” according to Ringo. The gold funds a terrorist group, headquartered in the fictional nation of Jeziristan. Named the Muslim Brotherhood, they bomb civilian neighborhoods, and bludgeon individuals to death with gold-tipped canes with no apparent motivation. The Misfits gang vaguely lays out a nebulous upcoming terrorist action, which the American government is ignoring, as their motive to target the group. That’s about the extent of the film’s geopolitical ambitions, best summed up by Pace’s observation: “You want me to go into a Middle Eastern country that is filled with terrorists to steal their gold?” Besides that, we get Arabic dialects so stereotypical, they’d be cut from “The Simpsons.” Even the camels are named Muhammed. All of them.
“The Misfits” hits all the clichés: elaborate planning, a problematic father-daughter relationship, more problematic age-gap flirtations, barely-dressed eye candy in almost every frame, and exceedingly contrived situations which pass for payoffs. Cannon wears so many disguises, you’d think he was auditioning for an Eddie Murphy comedy. The only twist we’ve never seen before is turning the entire prison into a vomitorium to cover the sounds of drilling into the vault.
It’s a very casual affair, really, in spite of the simple, but unnecessarily overcomplicated scheme. Everything seems to happen by chance regardless of how much planning goes into making it all look so spontaneous. Schultz languidly races to foil the theft, and strolls through his pursuit of the suspects. The whole chaotic scenario seems to bore him as much as the master criminal Pace. He can’t even be bothered to ask any follow-up questions in his interrogation of Pace’s cellmate after the initial, barely embarrassing, escape.
We really never worry whether or not the group will be able to pull off the heist. There doesn’t seem to be any stakes involved, and even in the midst of the worst part of the action, there is no viable sense of peril to any characters involved. Some reveals are projected by the very act of overtly trying to cover them up, such as one short-lived case of mistaken identity. The audience knows whose head is under a sack before we even see the shadow of the sack. So much for “girl power.” We also never for a moment believe the inevitable sequence, which comes in every con game flick, where the rogues question the loyalty of one of their own.
“The Misfits” bears no relation to John Huston’s 1961 film of the same name, but you won’t get them confused, Ultimately the film is disposable. It looks good, the production is flashy, the scenario is preposterous, and the laughs are forced. It is both bland escapism and decorative confinement.
“The Misfits” releases June 11 in select theaters and June 15 on VOD.