What exactly…is Terminal? No, no…that wasn’t some highfalutin or artsy attempt to start this review. I seriously don’t know what this film is. Is it an exercise in the limits of neon lighting cinematography? Is it another neo-noir vehicle starring Margot Robbie that stumbles at the starting gate and never fully recovers? (I see you Suicide Squad) Is it a love letter to an era where Hollywood spit out movies like this seemingly every week, but comes closer to being a love letter written using cut out pieces of various periodicals, making the reader/viewer feel uncomfortable and frightened? It is likely all of those things. In short…though longer than our one word review…Terminal is a cavalcade of mistakes, wheel-spinning WASTES of time trying to masquerade as crafty foreshadowing, and performances given by actors I love that bounce around in tone and coherence like an annoying child’s pink rubber ball. What is this film?
Terminal stars the aforementioned Margot Robbie along with the great Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, and Guy Ritchie vet, Dexter Fletcher. It is about a femme fatale named Annie, played by Robbie, as she manipulates several seedy characters into playing a dangerous game of sex, death, and double-crosses. It comes to us from writer/director Vaughn Stein from…from…well…nothing really. (At best I could find was Third Assistant Director for World War Z. Yeah, that’s a thing.) I’m doing my best to avoid spoiling a plot that, if you see Terminal, will likely frustrate you into wondering why I even bothered.
I remember after Pulp Fiction became a cultural phenomena in the mid ’90s, copy cat films sprung up like wild fire trying to capture the same magic. Terminal feels like one of those films. Not Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead or Go type quality. More like The Big Hit and 2 Days In The Valley type quality. The overly written dialogue with segues that seem innocuous until later. The twists that feel more confusing and convoluted than clever. The hyper-stylized visuals used to distract from the lack of substance. The overly heavy-handed symbolism regarding a previous work of fiction. I’m sure the early twenties version of me might have had the DVD of Terminal in my dorm room and plopped it on after coming home from some drunken rager. It might have even garnered a cult following like some of those films over the years due to nostalgic blinders. However, the older me, the one that kinda sees the strings a little better, just watched Terminal with this apropos expression on my face:
To Terminal’s credit, there is a literal side mission, in terms of the plot, that involves Simon Pegg’s character that comes off as vaguely interesting. If only it were the entire plot of the film. If it were expanded to be all of Terminal, leaving aside the main cat and mouse hitman mystery, this might have been something. But before you know it, the side mission ends and we are thrust back into a main plot that makes little to no sense and amasses little to no interest.
Margot Robbie has recently proven with I, Tonya that she brings more to the table than roles like this. This is paint by numbers for her in this, with little to no meat for her to chew on that she hasn’t devoured before in better stuff. I appreciated that Mike Myers seemed to want to branch out of comedy and take some roles that showed off all of his talents. This role is hardly it. Simon Pegg is always charismatic and fun to watch. However, despite an interesting story arc, I think Pegg is terribly miscast in this film even taking into account his chemistry with Robbie. If he had, again, some more room to expand and grow this character, you might buy where his character goes…but he doesn’t and you don’t. Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons (son of Jeremy inexplicably) are saddled with such disposable material, it’s hard for me to remember anything about their characters other than they are British and have the lion share of the f-bombs.
Terminal is a WASTE. A WASTE of talent, time, and effort to apparently tap into a type of filmmaking of the past that is best suited to staying in its era. If you watch it, I’ll bet it is going to be hard for you to tell me I’m wrong.