Great Britain

The Courier review: Olga Kurylenko can't save leaden, nonsensical action film

Dir: Zackary Adler. Cast: Olga Kurylenko, Gary Oldman, Dermot Mulroney, William Moseley, Amit Shah, Calli Taylor. 18 cert, 97 mins.

There are two types of Gary Oldman performance. You can hire Oldman the thespian, who’ll electrify any role he’s handed – whether it’s Sid Vicious, Count Dracula or Sirius Black. Or you can hire Oldman the celebrity name, who’ll appear in about 15 minutes of your film and spend most of it yelling (see: last year’s Hunter Killer). The latter makes an appearance in The Courier, a leaden action film that lacks both imagination and logic.

The Oscar winner plays Ezekiel Mannings, an international crime lord kitted out like a Bond villain (he’s got an eyepatch, facial scars and a silk dressing gown). He’s been caught and placed under house arrest in New York, though he’s inexplicably still allowed to make phone calls and order his minions around. In fact, that’s all the role requires of Oldman – to sit around and occasionally bark into a handset. Top of Mannings’ priority list is the elimination of Nick Murch (Amit Shah), the sole living witness to his crimes and the reason he’s currently being tried in court.

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Nick is being driven to a secret location in London so that he can testify via video link. But a duplicitous Interpol agent (Alicia Agneson), on Mannings’ orders, has smuggled a cyanide bomb into the meeting room. It’s brought in by a motorcycle courier (Olga Kurylenko), a clueless patsy set up to take the fall. What the bad guys don’t know is that this mysterious woman is a former black-ops soldier and a highly trained killing machine. She rushes in to save Nick, only for the pair to get trapped in the building’s parking garage after a second corrupt agent (William Moseley’s Agent Bryant) puts the place on lockdown.

The rest of the story is almost entirely confined to this multistory carpark, as the unnamed courier takes on Bryant and his men. It’s about the most boring place you could think to set an action film. There are only concrete walls and rows of automobiles to look at. Director Zackary Adler, who collaborated on the script with three other writers, struggles to add any variety to the fight scenes. A military-grade drone even makes an appearance near the end, in a desperate bid to give our hero an enemy that isn’t another muscle-bound thug.

The courier herself is a flat, empty take on the “badass woman”. She’s an expert fighter who never gets emotionally attached, with a supernatural ability to absorb punches and take bullets like they’re a mere inconvenience. And, of course, the film finds a reason for her to take her shirt off. Kurylenko, at least, unearths a few shreds of humanity. Her livewire energy reveals flashes of a deeper weariness, like she’s seen too much of the world and let it break too many parts of her. Outside of her performance, The Courier fails to deliver.