The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



211 is one of those cheap-o, paint-by-numbers action pictures that simulate small-town America by filming in Bulgaria and hoping no one will notice that the locations look nothing like the United States. Nicolas Cage has made a lot of these movies in the last decade. It's a shame how far his career has fallen. This poorly-written, amateurishly-directed production does him no favors. It's one of the worst films so far in 2018.

Cage plays soon-to-retire police officer Mike Chandler. His partner, Steve McAvoy (Dwayne Cameron), is also the husband of his pregnant, estranged daughter. One day, Mike and Steve are tasked with conducting a “ride-along” for a troubled teenager, Kenny (Michael Rainey, Jr.). It's supposed to be an uneventful day, but then they stumble upon a bank robbery being carried out by a bunch of guys with high-powered assault rifles. 211 even employs that obnoxious, over-used cliché in which the robbers are “ex-Special Forces” – a term of convenience used these days to imply that someone miraculously cannot be killed and never seems to miss when firing a weapon.

That set-up takes the first forty minutes of the film. The next forty consist of people shooting at each other. Writer/director York Shackleton doesn't generate so much as an ounce of suspense. It's just random gunfire, occasionally punctuated by some of the sloppiest, least-plausible attempts at pathos that you will ever see in a motion picture. For instance, when an emergency room doctor is operating on a cop who's been shot during the event, she overhears another character say something about a teenager on a ride-along. That's right – the doctor treating the victims of the shootout is Kenny's mom. Actually, the scene is even more absurd than I've described, because I've left out the part that's a more overt spoiler (even though you'll see it coming a mile away if you've ever seen a bad cop movie).

Nicolas Cage seems to be cashing a paycheck here. His performance is devoid of enthusiasm or energy, aside from the now-requisite moment in which he gets to chew the scenery like a maniac. This “insanity” has become his go-to performance style of late, and it's incredibly depressing to see a good actor intentionally do such poor work. None of the other cast members make an impression one way or another.

It's hard to say what the point of 211 was supposed to be. The bad guys are completely underdeveloped, so they pose no real menace. (But hey, they're ex-Special Forces!). There's no plot, just a lot of shooting. The character arcs are so hackneyed that it's hard to believe anyone would still utilize them in 2018. There is no element of this film that even remotely works or entertains.

In California, “211” is police code for robbery. 211 might better have been titled 219, which is the code for a train wreck.

( out of four)

211 is rated R for violence and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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