Legacy of Lies Movie Review: A disaster, in every respect
A spy thriller with virtually no redeemable qualities
Legacy of Lies has not one redeemable moment in its hour-and-41-minute runtime. Ridden with espionage cliches, woeful plot conception (no heed paid to continuity or common sense), dreadful editing, and an all-round amateur acting effort from the supposed stars, it makes even your most mediocre action-thriller appear to be straight out of a John le Carre classic.
There are those films one ought never to be late for. As for Adrian Bol’s creation, it would make little difference if one were to walk in 45 minutes past the official showtime. It’s all a hodgepodge of nonsense involving three intelligence agencies (MI6, the CIA, and Russian intelligence) in search of top-secret files that went missing in a botched operation in Ukraine 12 years prior. In the eye of the proverbial storm is retired (well, he was fired by the MI6 after the failed assignment, obviously) MI6 agent, Martin Baxter (Scott Adkins). He makes his living as a bouncer at a shady London nightclub, and occasionally side-gigs at illegal bare-knuckle boxing bouts run by the esteemed establishment’s owner.
Add to the mix a 12-year-old kid; a Ukrainian journalist looking to expose a government cover-up; a Russian agent dressed to the nines while breaking fingers and faces alike; a truly insufferable CIA chappie (with lines of boundless ingenuity such as, “We had a deal, Martin. You keep out of our business and we keep out of yours.”); and one unconnected action/chase sequence after the other - and you have yourself too much to handle.
While Legacy of Lies attempts every trick in the book to emulate a modern Western spy thriller, it fails miserably because even its cliches are so badly pieced together. Basing a film on an unoriginal idea is one thing, but disgracing yourself by failing to execute even that, quite another.
Director – Adrian Bol
Cast – Scott Adkins, Yuliia Sobol, Anna Butkevich, Honor Kneafsey, Martin McDougall
The action is believable for the most part, but when scenes of hand-to-hand combat, weapons being discharged, and getaway cars speeding down unsuspecting streets, appear from seemingly nowhere, there is a problem. The story suffers from a wholesome dose of discontinuity. What’s worse is that the film makes no attempt to explain how or why one scene blends into the other. Glaring examples include: the inexplicable disappearance of Sasha (early on) at the nightclub – one moment Martin and she are escaping spraying bullets, and the next thing you know, the former is scrambling back to his flat all by himself; how on earth Sasha magically returns after jumping into the water (towards the end) is shrouded in mystery as well – one thing consistent about her character is that she comes and goes whenever the narrative gets bored of the status quo.
Another strange, if not altogether unexplained character, is Martin’s deceased wife. No one really knows why she was with him on that failed assignment in Kiev. She also appears intermittently to Martin as a grey, desolate apparition, telling him to finish what he started. I gather that is his guilty conscience egging him on, but the unnecessary horror imagery makes this whole business rather laughable.
The title does inadvertently allude to untruths being couched to an unsuspecting audience as cinema. If I were to clutch at straws (and, I’m really clutching here, mind you), Honor Kneafse, as Martin’s teenage daughter, Lisa, is the only half-believable actor in a film bursting with amateurism. A ludicrous plot and subpar execution notwithstanding, her precociousness and presence aren’t lost on the viewer. What is truly unfortunate is that her role is only a supporting one.
Other elements such as the big reveal and the betrayal can be seen from a mile away. The borderline Stockholm Syndrome bond shared by Lisa and her Russian kidnapper, though not entirely unlikely, is rendered implausible thanks to the latter’s performative standards. The relationship and strategy between the three intelligence agencies on show must be added to the film’s laundry list of demerits. They do appear as confused and utterly lost about the situation as some of us in the audience.