At some point, someone needs to call Social Services to check in on Nicolas Cage. Seriously, it’s hard to think of another “celebrated” (yes, those are necessary) actor who plumbs the Direct To Video depths, has a few festival films, as well as 1 to 2 major theatrical releases yearly. Case in point, he’s gotten acclaim from the festival smash Mandy, along with 3 DTV that already hit shelves and VOD and the year is only half way done! His fourth foray into that field leaves much to be desired. If you do decide to endure 211, you’ll likely be pulling a 187 on your evenings enjoyment*.
Somewhere in a rock quarry standing in for the outskirts of Afghanistan, a group of former Black Op soldiers find themselves at an impasse. Turns out their current employer believes that no one need pay for war profiteering. His merry band of mercenaries think otherwise. Their decision is so deliciously ridiculous, that it helps inform whoever is watching the movie, just what they’re in store for. As retribution for being stiffed, they plan to rob one of the many banks their boss has squirreled money away in. The sum they then spend months toiling away planning to liberate? One million dollars! And then they kill their anyways. Loose ends and what not.
Meanwhile in some foreign country standing in for America, Cage plays Officer Mike Chandler. The saddest man that ever was. At least in the terms of this movie. Forced retirement stares him in the face. Every morning he’s reminded that he wife passed months ago. An event that estranged him from his daughter (Sophie Skelton) in the process. His one saving grace is his partner, who’s also his son-in-law (Dwayne Cameron), whom he secretly seems to wish was his biological child.
One rather mundane afternoon, the partners are joined by a civilian ride along. During one of Chandler’s “technology is stupid because it stops cops from breaking the law” rants, they stumble upon the main robbery that frames the piece. Almost instantly they stumble upon the main bank being robbed and things go south. Pinned down, with only their wits and side arms to save them, the 3 men try to survive as best they can, until the audience patience runs out, or the credits roll. Whichever comes first.
If any of this seems rambling, that’s entirely the point. 211 feels less like an actual film and more like a very confused and meandering Television pilot. The acting, the cinematography, editing and action all support this point. While it may seem unfair to belabor a film for feeling chintzy, it’s all this minor DTV feature has going for it. Director York Alec Shackleton swing for the fences, but ultimately strikes out. There is something of a manageable film deep inside what’s on display. Shackleton clearly want to make a big raucous police procedural, doing justice for the men in women in blue. He just hasn’t yet nailed to how make that compelling.
Another thorn in the side of anyone watching the film, is that constant shifting of perspective. At any given time, there are no less than 17 storylines to keep track of. Outside of the main cops and robbers, there’s an Interpol agent tracking the mercenaries, Cage’s daughter dealing with a pregnancy, The ride along’s ER nurse of a mother, a swat unit, cops dealing with a bomb blast diversion and and and. While none of it is overly egregious, this is an 86 minute film. There simply is no room for darting back and forth. Moment of pathos or levity land with a thud. Or are barely understandable as an assemblage of characters yell at each other, with unexplained motivations.
It be strange to get into, specially this late in the game, but 211 is built almost entirely on hucksterism. The kind that would make snake oil salesmen blush. Almost every piece of press (releases, trailers and official synopses) surrounding the film make note of it being “inspired” by true events. Namely one of the longest and bloodiest standoffs in police history, dubbed the North Hollywood Shootout. While the robbers there were heavily armed, fire arms wielded by officers paled in comparison. Both in terms of efficiency and accuracy. The aftermath saw a ruling passed so that future squads could be outfitted with automatic rifles. So how does this movie incorporate these events? Why by having a police officer excitedly waive 2 rifles above her head before heading out to thwart the evil-doers. That and the fact that the central story involves a robbery. End of story.
This one is for strictly devout Nicholas Cage followers only. Simply because, by now, they’re the few humans immune to such films like this.
*The one way to keep one’s sanity, when dealing with 211, is police puns.