John Luther and Robb Stark team up for a poorly-timed bomb chase through the streets of Paris, that seems almost destined to be buried.
A victim of nothing more than unfortunate scheduling, James Watkins’ Bastille Day finds an American con artist and pickpocket (Richard Madden) thrown in to the centre of a French terror plot when he accidentally steals a bag that just so happens to contain explosives. Narrowly escaping the blast and branded the country’s public enemy number one, he’s forced to team up with rogue C.I.A. agent Briar (Idris Elba) to uncover the truth and prevent further attacks from going down, as the Bastille Day parade approaches.
There’s a little more to it than that; in fact, terrorism isn’t really the focus here at all, but it’s insanely hard to bypass these sorts of assumptions without giving off major spoilers. Meaning that it’s likely that upon its release, Bastille Day will be considered distasteful and unpleasant and thrown straight in the distribution bin.
Which to be honest, is a bit of a shame. This might not exactly be the pinnacle of action cinema or a particular high-point in either Elba or Maddens’ careers either, but what it is is a lot of fun. It’s ridiculous, silly and always painfully over the top, but Watkins never loses sight of this; he never masquerades the film as something it’s not, and that has to be praised in some form.
Although to be fair, it’s probably hard to even take yourself seriously when your film features a hammily-accented Idris Elba playing an American government official who jacks cars, hospitalises civilians, and even – no word of a lie – sings the film’s theme song. It’s all totally absurd, but if you accept this early on and just buy into how mind-numbingly stupid the whole thing is, you’re guaranteed a good time.
Madden plays along sheepishly, whilst international villains bark their own character descriptions and goofy lines like “upload the final hashtag!” in their most convincing menacing accents, and Elba continues strutting around cracking skulls and truly butchering the French language like he’s in some sort of higher-budget Seagal shooter, that’s found itself somehow crossed with a teenager’s attempts to play Grand Theft Auto.
Any time Elba ever picks up a gun on screen, the public seem to race towards labelling him as a future Bond, but here he proves himself more of a Taken-esque Liam Neeson type. Bold, brash, and a helluva lot more fun than Bond’s been in years. There’s no stealthy one liners or cuff-straightening here, just cold, hard beat-downs, packed out with totally nonsense, cliche-ridden dialogue.
After all, Bastille Day is an action movie. It might not be as clever, or as classy in its execution as a Bond or a Bourne, and it might fall a little short of ever being quite as crowd-pleasing as a Fast & Furious or even the first Taken, but Watkins’ attempt is a solid and well-rounded dose of fun. Nothing more, nothing less.
Switch off from all your preconceived worries about plots making sense or dialogue being subtle. This is just pure entertainment from start to finish.
Bastille Day is released in UK cinemas on 22nd April through Stuidocanal.