More emphasis on the contrived love story than the running, jumping and chasing action
Unusually, setting action thrillers solely within a European city can offer a great relationship between both scenery and story. You think of Luc Besson’s Leon or the Bourne series, highlighting the splendor of its historical location whilst at the same time playing out intense gripping drama. Here, set in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, we have Robert Diggs (played by Christian Slater) who is a specialist US envoy, employed to initiate English as a second language whilst overcoming recent tragedies and hopefully looking for change in life. But once US embassy boss Ambassador Ashdown (played by Donald Sutherland) informs of a vigilante on the loose eradicating the known terrorists of Eastern Europe, Diggs becomes suspicious of the involvement of a new-found love.
What’s surprising is that for a stripped down thriller, it still feels awfully long, baggy and half the time doesn’t seem to go anywhere. There seems to be more of an emphasis on the contrived love story rather than doing more of the running, jumping and chasing action, with the most enticing on offer is a half bothered chase up a stair well. And when I mean contrived, it doesn’t come more contrived than femme fatale Sofia (played by Elike Portnoy) who sways through the film in various disguises, becoming an enigma used as the main plot device, who just becomes too much to concentrate on and invest any effort in as her split personalities just simply get annoying. For what could potentially be a good idea on paper, certain elements just didn’t add towards a properly grounded down conventional thriller.
Christian Slater does do the job of wearing the leather jacket and being the great American hero quite well, as he does every time he graces our screens. But with a hurried attempt at a back story, you can’t invest yourself in his character much more than that. You get Timothy Spall doing the unnecessary over-acting as a psychologist, who looks to get into the soul of his clients by drawing portraits of them and looking rather askew over his glasses, whilst spending his nights drinking at a belly dancing bar. Then you have Donald Sutherland supposedly being the great informant of high-profile intelligence, whilst all the time sitting on his desk, meandering the city streets wearing any hat he can find and constantly referring to “his agents” and “his men”. The great depth of the cast list ought to drag the film into some area of watchable viewing, yet everyone feeling they need to do more and being too dramatic in their roles just becomes too tiresome.
In terms of it’s directing, the film utilises the architecture and culture of Sofia as a city very well. But in doing so there is too many repeated shots, annoying repetition of flashbacks and eventually a tedious routine of deja vu at every available attempt. Even though the environment plays as a great back drop, the absence of any set pieces whatsoever becomes an issue and it very much felt that the film makers are trying more to weave a story out of the grand location they shot the film in, rather than putting the story as the top priority.
In its basic praise, it does try to punch out some form of a coherent plot, but with no attempt to delve into more plot avenues that you think could have provided more weight to the film, it just becomes an unforgettable experience that wont be remembered anytime soon.
SOFIA IS RELEASED ON DVD & BLU-RAY FROM 3RD SEPTEMBER 2012.
Watch the trailer…