'The Courier' Blu-Ray Review: Morgan's Cool Shines Through Murky Mystery
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a classic macho actor in every sense of the word. In a behind the scenes feature for "The Courier," available on home video tomorrow, director Hany Abu-Assad describes Morgan as the "Lee Marvin of today."
After watching Morgan in one of his few leading roles in "Courier," there is no doubt about that. One just wishes the film could've reached its potential as a cool '70s throwback in the hands of two professionals.
Morgan plays The Courier. He delivers packages and never asks questions. He is approached by a mysterious man one day who offers him a job. He needs to deliver a case to someone feared by the entire criminal underworld. After The Courier refuses, the mystery man threatens the family of The Courier's friend and mentor. Now, our Courier has 60 hours to find the dangerous man and deliver the case.
It sounds like the set-up for a great B-movie with a central mystery worth noting. The fact that it is set in New Orleans only adds to the potential. However, "The Courier" has a few minor and major setbacks that ultimately prevent it from greatness. What it ends up as is a pretty neat guilty pleasure. Whether this is good or bad will be up to the viewer.
"The Courier" is obviously a low budget, independently produced film. This, at times, works in its favor and other times it does not. Sometimes there are small technical details that seem overlooked or cobbled together in various parts of the film. These wouldn't be worth noting if it weren't for the larger issues with "The Courier," specifically the script.
One can feel the stench of rewrites as the film switches beats and tone and some dialogue feels out of place and way below par. "The Courier" sometimes feels like a fun New Orleans mystery with a cool investigator caught in the middle. Other times, you're watching a dark character study or a low-budget mess haphazardly thrown together.
The film's final twist will split viewers right down the middle. The twist provides a conclusion that really makes no logical sense and is a bit murky in explanation and reasoning. If there had been more build up in the script or more background provided, perhaps this final revelation could've been pulled off. Alas, "The Courier" sticks to a strict 97 minute running time and provides no such background.
Now for the positives - two major ones to be exact. They make "The Courier" not only watchable, they almost make it (gasp!) original. Those two beacons of hope are star and executive producer Morgan and the film's Academy Award winning director.
Morgan is comprehensive in his role. We never doubt for a second who this man is or his skills in his particular job. Being more independent, the film has the advantage of giving Morgan a chance to do more than be an action star and a leading man. It allows him to create a character that is sure to leave many wanting more.
Assad is the Academy Award winning director of the acclaimed "Paradise Now." "The Courier" marks his English language feature debut. Assad does not direct "The Courier" as if it is any old direct-to-DVD thriller. He never puts style above story. He proves himself here as someone who can use style to propel his story. He shoots "The Courier" extremely well ... to the point where this critic and film buff was saying half way through the film, "who the hell directed this?"
There is a fantastic opening sequence and Mickey Rourke shows up for a ridiculous role. He tries his best, but the part is just too strange and ridiculous - even for Rourke. It would reach the point of camp if Rourke weren't so damn good.
The extras on the Blu-ray edition include an in-depth behind the scenes feature that includes some pretty cool background on the film and the cast and director. The Blu-ray also includes deleted and alternate scenes, some of which probably should've remained in the film.
Overall, "The Courier" is ultimately worth a look. It may suffer from a few major flaws, but it succeeds in being a pretty cool film with many little and a few big pleasures. Both Morgan and his director make "The Courier" something special. It could've been great if more attention had been paid to script, details and an ending that is pretty out of whack if examined for more than two seconds.
"The Courier" doesn't reach that level of greatness. Maybe it doesn't need to. It does a pretty good job of being an admitted guilty pleasure film experience of 2012.