There are things Richard Madden can do well. Wear a fur coat, wield a sword, put on a fine northern accent and look smouldering with a terrific pout and superb stubble. There are things he cannot do though, chief among them is act and produce a decent American accent. In fact Madden’s performances is a fine summation of Bastille Day. Daft, ridiculous and entertaining (if not intentionally).
Bastille Day begins with a woman walking naked through some sort of religious festival, while her accomplice, Madden goes about robbing people of their valuables like its going out of fashion. Then we head to a train, where via some astonishing naff dialogue, Madden is portrayed as some crook with a vaguely troubled past. Supposedly endearing, it just ends up looking like a parody.
Madden’s character, pick-pocket and con artist Michael Mason is apparently from Las Vegas I’m almost certain nobody from the Nevada area sounds like Michael Mason. His accent, much like the plot, is all over the shop. It drifts from the Valley area of California to Edinburgh via the Ribble Valley. Thankfully the film is so enjoyable silly and the plot so ludicrously thin it could have passed for Cheryl Cole doing a catwalk spot during Milan Fashion Week.
At first we get what seems a far-right nationalist terrorist group, then a conspiracy to trample civil liberties in France masterminded by Jose Garcia’s intelligence chief – who looks remarkably like Robert Downey Jr. Before finally delivering a plot twist almost entirely ripped off from Die Hard 2, the rubbish one (at least until the one with emotionless android Jai Courtney was released.
There were points in Bastille Day where were I not so concerned with disturbing the cinema code of conduct I would have stood up with my hands up shouting “NO! WHAT?! ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH PAL?!” No more so than when a bunch of anti-capitalist protesters break in and takeover the National Bank chanting slogans so unbelievable it was like Anonymous, but even less serious. I think this was a moment meant to be symbolic and powerful but instead resembled a hysterical set piece from The Naked Gun. All that was missing was OJ Simpson being catapulted out of a wheelchair.
There are a few moments where the film seems like it’s about to become an interesting commentary on the overreach of intelligence services and racist profiling doing far more harm than good. Then the film suddenly remembers “oh bugger I’m supposed to be big and dumb” and we go right back to Idris Elba swearing, shooting and punching a gallery of villains so French, they may as well have pranced about in stripy turtlenecks, twirling their moustaches throwing garlic at people.
There are some nice high spots in this film though. I did love the focus on the grimier underbelly of Paris as opposed to the classic Hollywood version of Paris. The Paris of tourist cafes, on impossibly clean cobbled streets with the Eiffel Tower in the prominent background even when you’re on a housing estate on the north side of the city. There are some genuinely thrilling car chases too and good, brutal looking fight sequences, heavily influenced by Bourne and modern-day Bond.
Idris Elba is as imposing as always, portraying the maverick intelligence agent, Briar, who is the quick-tempered grumpy one in the buddy cop, odd-couple with Madden’s thief. Elba spends much of the film beating people up and staring holes through his reluctant partner/prisoner while uttering the odd four letter word and making threats to remove various parts of Madden’s body. Think bumping into a dodgy hen party in Blackpool on a Saturday night; although Elba looks less horrifying in Bastille Day.
Even without the dodgy accent, Madden’s performance still isn’t all that. His delivery at times is cringe worthy and he seems like he struggles to keep a straight face throughout the whole film. As if he can’t quite get over how cheesy his the story or the character is (white guy with everything moans and runs away from responsibility before finding himself…sort of).
Overall, Bastille Day was a film so daft and mad it could have passed for one of Sarah Palin’s children. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the feeling that unlike Sarah Palin, the film was knowingly silly. An overblown action, buddy-cop movie that has some fun. Because that was Bastille Day is, fun. Big, dumb, fun and there is always time for that in the cinema.