Friday, 29 August 2014

My Name is Modesty (2004)

This adaptation of Peter O'Donnell's comic strip and novel character Modesty Blaise goes the 'origin story' route.  This is not automatically a bad decision, I guess.  But it is rather obvious and unadventurous a choice for what was intended to launch a franchise of films.

'Intended' being the operative word, because no other films were made.  That's probably because this one isn't very good.

As I said, an origin story isn't automatically a bad idea.  But framing it as a series of narration-heavy flashbacks is.  And that's what the movie does: turning over the entire middle 30 minutes (of a film that only barely lasts 70) to a tedious roulette game where Modesty has to answer questions about her past if the bad guy wins, and the bad guy has to let a hostage go if she does.  Are we supposed to feel tension over the survival of the hostages?  Given that only one of them has a line of dialogue before the bad guys arrive, it's kinda hard.

That lack of tension undermines the whole film.  Only rarely does the movie try to make you feel like Modesty doesn't have the entire situation under control, and even when it does, it does so poorly.  Now to be fair, O'Donnell's character was rarely perturbed in the novels either (I've never read the comic strip), but the novels were schlocky, slightly titillating schoolboy nonsense that never took themselves too seriously.

And that's where this film really falls down, to my mind: it's po-faced and entirely lack in humour, which might be forgivable if it had tension or excitement but it's just flashbacks and two people playing roulette for most of the movie.  The film never ever gets out of first gear on any front - never really seems to make an effort to do so, in most of them - and ends up feeling too long even with its short run time.


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