01st Jan2018

‘Stratton’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Dominic Cooper, Gemma Chan, Connie Nielsen, Tom Felton, Tyler Hoechlin, Derek Jacobi, Austin Stowell, Thomas Kretschmann | Written by Warren Davis II, Duncan Falconer | Directed by Simon West


Directed by Simon West (Con Air), this British spy thriller clearly fancies itself as the basis of a lucrative action franchise in the Bond or Bourne mould. Unfortunately, the action is decidedly sub-par and the central character is as dull as dishwater, which doesn’t bode well for its chances of future instalments.

Based on a series of novels by former Special Boat Service commando Duncan Falconer (who co-wrote the screenplay), Stratton centres on pint-sized SBS commando John Stratton (Dominic Cooper), who’s tasked with capturing evil Russian agent Grigori Barovsky (Thomas Kretschmann), before he unleashes a deadly terror attack on central London. The mission has a personal edge for Stratton, as Barovsky is the man responsible for the death of his former partner, Marty (Tyler Hoechlin, Supergirl’s Superman) on a previous mission.

Assigned a new partner (Austin Stowell as Hank) and teamed with his regular group of MI5 techies – including smart cookie Aggy (Gemma Chan), twitchy techie Cummings (Tom Felton) and snarky Spinks (Jake Fairbrother) – Stratton tracks Barovsky to Rome, before heading back to London for an action-packed climax involving a Routemaster bus.

It’s a shame that first choice Henry Cavill pulled out at the last minute, because it would have been fun to see Superman and Superman sharing scenes together. As it is, Cooper is convincing enough in the action sequences, but there’s nothing remotely interesting or engaging about his character, to the point where even his half-hearted flirting with Chan falls flat.

The supporting cast are similarly under-served by the exposition-heavy script and they all look very po-faced throughout as a result. Indeed, the only actor who seems to be enjoying himself is Derek Jacobi (as Stratton’s salty, boat-dwelling father figure Ross), who’s clearly decided to ad-lib all his dialogue and slip in as many dirty limericks as he thinks he can get away with.

However, the main problem is that the production values on Stratton are extremely low (flashy Rome locations or no flashy Rome locations), which leaves everything looking rather shoddy. Similarly, West’s gift for a tongue-in-cheek action sequence (so wonderful in Con Air) seems to have completely deserted him, since all we get here are a few poorly staged gun battles, a damp squib of a boat chase and the afore-mentioned, less than thrilling bus-based finale.

On top of that, there are moments where the film is so ridiculously awful that it just becomes laughable. The main offender here is Connie Nielsen’s atrocious performance as Stratton’s MI5 boss, Sumner – her line readings are so jaw-droppingly dreadful that you can’t quite believe what you’re hearing. However, that pales in comparison to the unintentionally hilarious sequence where Aggy is hiding on a bus and fails to spot Nelson’s Column when asked if she can see anything that might give a clue as to her location.

Ultimately, Stratton will be lucky to stay in your memory hours after viewing, let alone kick-start a franchise. In short, its franchise chances have been well and truly scuppered. One to avoid.

* 1/5

Stratton is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Pictures.


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