Review: John David Washington's 'Beckett' on the run in slick thriller
Courtesy of Netflix
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino’s “Beckett” was made out of admiration for early ‘70s fugitive thrillers where innocent, everyday individuals were entangled in a massive government (and political) cover-up. John David Washington takes over the reins and runs about as fast and loose as he can in this tidy, derivative, but silly late night snack best served after a long week where you’re ready to turn the brain off for a breezy 100 minutes. Filomarino, who has a close working relationship with “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino, who is an executive producer on this project, infuses “Beckett” with a daft sense of awareness, and Washington carries the torch in a role that, twenty years prior, would’ve likely been played by his father, however, the “BlackKkKlansman” actor solidifies leading man status playing a character who isn’t hellbent on slashing kneecaps (or using inversion to thwart a terrorist attack), but a fish-out-of-water American trying to find his way home.
A stranger in a strange land, Washington’s Beckett is on a romantic getaway in Greece with his other half, April (Alicia Vikander) enjoying the scenery and delectable spanakopita before the proverbial shit hits the fan. It begins when Beckett falls asleep at the wheel and he and April crash their rental car into an abandoned farmhouse, killing her instantly. The rest of the ensuing conflict see’s Beckett at the forefront of one twisty international conspiracy involving an important diplomat and the kidnapping of his son. On the run from a mysterious woman (Lena Kistopoulou) and a police officer, Xenakis (Panos Koronis) who start shooting at him for no reason, Beckett goes on a cross-country excursion hitchhiking and mauling his way to the United States embassy in Athens, and even then, can anyone be trusted? Predictable double-crossings and utterly ridiculous action sequences ensue, but credit to Filomarino’s relentless pacing and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom for lensing the film with the glossy, grainy look of all the classics.
The filmmakers exceptionally integrate the scenery with the material, taking the viewer on a journey through abandoned railways, gorgeous mountain nooks, and tight alleyways and even tighter parking garages. Most action thrillers are rarely shot on location, and the geographical proximity is without question the sole factor that distances “Beckett” from the pack. It also glimmers with confidence, which is necessary during the film’s convoluted third act where Boyd Holbrook checks in to play an American embassy agent tasked with landing Beckett back on his feet.
There’s also the narrative symbolism of a lone black man on the run from police in a city riddled with turmoil attached to “Beckett.” That Beckett snags help from two local activists (played by Vicky Krieps and Daphne Alexander) was a welcome (and surprising) subplot. The gorgeous backdrops notwithstanding, “Beckett” stays engaged with the material and succeeds on its own merits, aided in part because of Washington’s star-marking charisma and a hungry filmmaker trying to breathe life into an aging genre. We’ve seen it all before, but rarely do they feel this smooth.
BECKETT debuts on Netflix, Friday August 13th