movie film review | chris tookey
 
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  Avengers,The (1998)
1998 - Warner Brothers. Photo by David Appleby . - all rights reserved
     
 
 



A mad genius who has gained control of the world's climate (Sean Connery) is trying to make the world pay for its weather. Two secret agents (Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman) set out to thwart him.

A big fat gob of maximum crapulosity.
(New York Post)
About as inviting as a cement souffle... as enjoyable as being trapped in the corner of a pub by a rambling drunk trying to tell you a shaggy dog story... The confused narrative and unexplained transitions suggest that a good deal has been chopped from the film. But judging from the 90 minutes up on the screen, one hates to think what the stuff on the cutting-room floor is like.
(Philip French, Observer)
The Avengers will go down in history as the first film ever to be released simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic without a press screening.
Not unnaturally, many of us have been intrigued as to why. After all, film companies have shown stinkers like The Saint, which survived a critical mauling to pull in respectable audiences on its first weekend. How on earth could The Avengers be worse?
Now we know. The Avengers is such a turkey that Warner Brothers would have done better to hand over its distribution to Bernard Matthews.
How does one give an in-depth review to something with the weight, charm and sophistication of a used handkerchief?
The premise is quite promising. A mad genius who has gained control of the world's climate (Sean Connery) is trying to make the world pay for its weather.
Unfortunately, it's hard to tell what happens then, or why. The whole script appears to have been assembled by an untalented, 11 year-old Martian, handed a series of clapped-out ideas from other movies, but utterly unable to cobble them together in an intelligible or logical manner.
Jeremiah Chechik the director can now take his place among the cinema's pantheon of numbskulls. His last epic, Diabolique, a remake of the French film classic, was rightly called "a masterwork remade by cretins". This is even more dismally incompetent.
The TV series The Avengers was not, perhaps, a masterwork; but it had consistently ingenious plots, a nice sense of its own silliness, and a pair of charismatic leads (especially in Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg) with a gift for ironic, urbane comedy.
Looking back at old episodes, as I have done recently, I was struck by the wit of the screenplays (especially those by Philip Levene), the way the show managed to be sexily suggestive without being smutty, and the skill with which the art directors and production managers made a small budget go a long way. The new film has none of that.
Even normally reliable actors give the worst performances of their lives. Sean Connery puts the cause of Scottish nationalism back a hundred years with hamming that would have got him booed out of the White Heather Club.
Ralph Fiennes as John Steed meanders through it all, looking mildly bewildered and disdainful, like a Methodist minister at a papal orgy.He betrays no sense of humour, still less any sense of Uma.
This is understandable since Uma Thurman, struggling to maintain an English accent as Emma Peel, gives the sort of performance that has one examining her anxiously for termite damage.I do not exaggerate when I say that it is the worst performance I have ever seen in the cinema - all the more abject when one compares her to Diana Rigg in the role.
Chechik's direction and Don MacPherson's script are ideally suited, in that both lack any idea of subtlety, humour, charm, elegance, excitement, suspense or sympathy for the original series.
Their idea of a terrific joke is to have the English characters drink lots of tea. This is so hilariously funny that it becomes a kind of humourless running joke - though the word "running" implies a pace that the film sadly lacks.
When action sequences do occur - infrequently - they are beset by risible special effects, poor direction and actors who look incapable of athleticism.
Eddie Izzard, an actor with the grace and physique of a collapsing sack of potatoes, is ludicrously cast as the chief heavy. The final showdown betwen Fiennes and Connery is both unexciting and distasteful - it looks as though Stan Laurel is mugging a sad old pensioner.
I wish I could report that The Avengers is amusingly bad. It is not. It is a colossal bore, like someone's idea of sadistic revenge on moviegoers stupid enough to flock to anything with a recognisable brand name. So now you know why they wouldn't show this to the critics.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)

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