director: Jeff Wadlow
writer: Jeff Morris
starring: Kevin James, Kim Coates, Zulay Henao and Maurice Compte
genre: Action | Comedy
released: 11 November 2016 on Netflix
Originally, when I saw Netflix advertising this flick I thought this must have a part of the Adam Sandler Netflix deal. Though, once the film began it ended up not being one of Sandler's own productions as the humor and filmmaking wasn't as laid-back and juvenile as you would have expected it to be. However, that does us next to nothing as the film still is a Kevin James vehicle where the content is inconsiderately casual and sadly straight to the point.
Sam Larson (Kevin James) has been trying to escape his boring life through his unpublished spy novels for years. Constantly writing adventures of the perfect spy who escapes danger and always gets the girl. Much of the research and intel he puts in his novels comes from a former intelligence analyst and friend. Sam though will take advantage of this friendship a little bit too much with his latest novel by putting more truth than fiction in it. Once the novel actually gets published and under the wrong genre of non-fiction. People will believe him to be the man in the book known as the mysterious assassin the 'Ghost'. Pushing Sam to the epicenter of a conflict in Venezuela where the Ghost's skills are highly regarded and in dire need.
Now that Netflix exists, its good to ask the question if we would have still watched these low budget films if they were not on this online streaming service? In addition, is this material that could have been otherwise been released to a wide theater release audience or is it still not good enough that we are more or less wasting our time? To the first part its yes and no. As we were already used to watching trash in the past from the video store and its pretty much just a practice to sooth our curiosity when it comes to a different array of films and seldomly passing our time with mediocre crap. Which also kind of answers the second part that this is mindless entertainment to a great degree with a lower budget and not good enough for the big screen. Back in the day some of these films could have been prime time for a wide release due to their star power. But nowadays, entertainment has changed so radically were there is no chance of these films getting made or being released. As the amount of content available to consumers in general is unfathomable.
The film itself as mentioned is your typical Kevin James film. With the main character being an offish buffoon that will get into situations that he shouldn't be in and still remain a likable everyman that we will root for by the end of the film. Overall, the material isn't provoking as you would have correctly expected and not even thinly layered with social commentary despite the plot's potential. It just happened to be in Venezuela with talk of government coups and revolutions in the background and spies killing people left, right and center. There is no mention of the politics of the land, the dirty governments that controlled the situation or anything close to making the content slightly more thought provoking. The story is about a silly big guy caught in a dangerous but "hilarious" situation. Escapism entertainment for an audience who doesn't really want to think about the intricate details of the world they live in, no matter how much it might impact them or not.
Nevertheless, the plot itself isn't bad and if it was left to a greater filmmaker it could have made for some great satire and parody. It could have been half spoof and then half a satire on how America used to control countries with propped up dictatorships, only to be replaced by power hungry dictators that never really cared about their peoples freedoms in the first place. Though, for that to have happened you would have needed some insane mind of comedy, such as Woody Allen or Ben Stiller to get on the case. Not Kevin James and co. However, for a plot that is meant for his audience it could have been much worse. The biggest issue is that the jokes aren't many, nothing is that funny and the action scenes are by the book with no tension to mention of, as you know no main character will possibly die. And even though some great actors are in the film, it doesn't do much to make it any better. As no character has any real depth to them and the time spent on them is next to none.
If your desperate for something to put in the background, go to sleep to or watch mindlessly while multitasking you could do a lot worse. If you are expecting this to be anything but engaging, hilarious or emotional you better get your expectations in order. As when has a general audience Kevin James film truly surprised anyone? The answer to that is never.