With an eclectic cast that includes Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, and Mike Myers (where you been?), you’d think that the hyper-stylized hardboiled noir Terminal would at the very least be an interesting way to pass 95 minutes. Oh, sweet Jesus, guess again. This stylish-but-grating pastiche of far better crime flicks is as soft-boiled as they come.
Written and directed by first-timer Vaughn Stein, the film desperately wants to be a Cockney riff on Sin City or one of Nicholas Winding Refn’s chic, self-indulgent cine-advertorials. The neon colors sizzle your retinas, the streets are perpetually dark and wet, and the femmes only come in the fatale variety. But there’s nothing behind all the surface flash and razzle-dazzle, besides more flash and razzle-dazzle. It’s as phony as the emerald-green contact lenses that Robbie’s “mad-as-a-hatter” vixen wears.
The film opens with Robbie’s Annie (cigarette in hand, Betty Boop bangs, blood-red lipstick) sashaying into a confessional booth, where she proceeds to make a deal with the “priest” that will lead to a number of ice-in-the-veins assassinations and overly complicated double crosses. From there, things go downhill fast. Pegg, in a beard that makes him look like either Leon Trotsky or one of the Smith brothers (of cough drop fame), is a tubercular chain-smoker who loiters on train platforms contemplating suicide when he’s not making snarky comments to diner waitresses. Myers, who was last spotted on the pop-culture radar in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds (I refuse to acknowledge The Gong Show), plays a portly, bucktoothed janitor with a limp under pounds of latex and putty. And then there’s Max Irons and Dexter Fletcher as a pair of dim hitmen waiting for an assignment and getting on each other’s nerves in a squalid flophouse. They’ll get on yours too.
What do all these characters have in common, you ask? Well, nothing aside from the ridiculous chain of coincidences that Vaughn’s screenplay frog-marches them into. The film jumps around in time and generally thinks it’s a lot more clever than it is, handing each character a shady motivation or an alias or, in Robbie’s case, a reason to get tarted up in garters and stripper gear and purr schoolyard double-entendres like “I need someone to butter my buns for.”
Robbie, God bless her, tries to make what little she’s given work. Despite a role that’s as borderline demeaning as this one, she’s incapable of phoning it in. And Myers is at least going for something — even if his character feels like the East End cousin of Fat Bastard. But the rest of the film is shallow, annoying, and unoriginal. It’s a crime movie whose biggest crime is grand larceny from other, better movies. C-