The Misfits Evaluation: Renny Harlin’s retrograde, racist, heist film barely qualifies as a film

In the years following the critics and box office failure of the pirate adventure film Cutthroat Island in 1995 – which led to a steady, year-long decline in the US – director Renny Harlin finally traveled to China in the mid-2010s. Harlin felt a lot more accepted there than in the United States, where revenues had plummeted and nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards were collecting (and it didn’t help that Cutthroat Island had essentially bankrupted an entire studio). After directing the Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville film Skiptrace in 2016 – a Chinese co-production – the Finnish filmmaker of successful blockbuster action films like Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea made the move east permanently and even founded his own company in China . His second film after the move, the video game adaptation Legend of the Ancient Sword, didn’t do that hot; the film after that, Bodies at Rest, however, is 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. But his latest film, The Misfits – his first American production since The Legend of Hercules in 2014 – isn’t an 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. On the contrary: it feels like a movie adaptation of a stock photos.

The Misfits with Pierce Brosnan and Nick Cannon is airless, senseless and just made passable; an amalgamation of the tiredest clichés of pirated films executed in the most empty of ways. Since it is made by a capable director, there seems to be another reason for making this film. As if it were a cover for something – a money laundering program. It pains me to be so cruel to a movie, but it would be a lot less easy if it weren’t for being extremely racially insensitive as well. The film is based on a script by co-writers Robert Henny and Kurt Wimmer, who seem to be writing as if we were in a very different time, when they put excessive Middle Eastern accents and joked that all Muslim people were called “Mohammed” were “still considered kosher.

The plot of the film follows an unorthodox gang of criminals known as Misfits … but that name only resonates with the group’s leader, Ringo (Cannon), who goes to great lengths to explain the others during the seven-minute introductory narrative Members of the team do not necessarily agree with this name. The Misfits – which include, in addition to Ringo, the ass-kicking girl power broad Violet (Jamie Chung) and the pyrotechnic wick (Mike Angelo) – join a master thief named Richard Pace (Brosnan, who looks hot). Pace recently escaped from a prison, one of many run by a man named Schultz (Tim Roth, also hot looking) who does business with an extremist group called the Muslim Brotherhood. The Misfits plan to work with Pace to steal the gold that is currently being hoarded by Schultz and the Muslim Brotherhood in one of Schultz’s prisons in the Middle East. Not so that they can absolutely keep the gold for themselves, but to get it out of the hands of terrorists. It felt like we left this kind of storyline of “Righteous Westerners versus Evil Muslim Terrorists” to the annals of the past where it belongs, but The Misfits either want to bring back the good old days or it doesn’t matter what it does or what Message that it sends one way or another.

Eventually, Pace reluctantly agrees to “do the right thing” and steal the gold with the Misfits. This happens despite the fact that he is not guaranteed wealth to impress his estranged, humanitarian daughter Hope (Hermione Corfield) – for of course he has an estranged daughter. Hope literally says out loud, “I have trouble trusting men. Papa Problems ”during a conversation between the two of them. When she said that, I laughed out loud. Not simply because it was funny (it was) or because it was expected that way (again it was), but out of perverse acceptance of the pain I was having.

The Misfits plot is 90% narrative until it becomes difficult to follow the images on the screen while Cannon denies your ears. The insistence on narration seems to have less to do with not trusting the audience to understand the story (I can’t stress enough that it’s incredibly simple), but rather as trying to add some flavor to the film without actually doing anything to do with filmmaking. This is what many of the movie’s stylistic flourishes boil down to: garnish a dish instead of actually seasoning it. An old-fashioned black and white sequence opens the film as Cannon vigorously explains how to properly rob banks; comedic cutaways and flashback sequences underline the otherwise sloppy narrative; the occasional pleasing tailoring makes you feel like you’re seeing something with personality in the same league as the Oceans franchise, possibly thanks to editor Colleen Rafferty (The Man in the High Castle, Burn Notice).

Most of the acting is perfectly fine, the performances are reminiscent of “I was here, I showed up, I was paid” (almost reminiscent of the lucrative “Geezer Teaser” empire). None other than Cannon is particularly bad – but he’s a downright unbearable presence. Not fun, not charismatic, and with permission to caricature a Middle Eastern accent (which he later tries to say is European), disguising himself in full traditional clothing and pretending to be a close-up man East – especially interesting given the actor’s recent past flirtation with anti-Semitism. Scenes are without substance or style – characters, objects and places fill a shot with nothing actually in it. Top 40 needle drops that sound indistinguishable from the last ones are as hollow as they are distracting.

Those touches only add to the fact that The Misfits was made in a Getty Images lab; a series of boring but elegantly produced images that only convey the most common level of storytelling and are more like a robbery photo shoot. His minimal attempts at panache are devoid of any true artistic flair or uniqueness. The film itself becomes a black void, a rudderless vision anchored only by the desire to see it through.

Director: Renny Harlin
Authors: Robert Henny, Kurt Wimmer
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Nick Cannon, Tim Roth, Mike Angelo, Jamie Chung, Hermione Corfield
Release DATE: June 11, 2021

Brianna Zigler is a Massachusetts based entertainment writer. Her work has appeared on Little White Lies, Film School Rejects, Thrillist, Bright Wall / Dark Room and others, and she writes a bi-monthly newsletter called That’s Weird. You can follow her on Twitter, where she’s happy to have engaging discussions on films like Movie 43, Clifford, and Watchmen.

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