• Nate Adams

'The 355' review: Female led action caper never adds up


Courtesy of Universal

 

Not as abysmal as the usual deluge of wonky January releases, Simon Kinberg's accessible “The 355” comes together on the strengths of a hellacious ensemble, but falls apart when trying to explain the bigger picture, which doesn’t even come into focus until the closing minutes and by then, you’re already checked out. In other words, “The 355” is another lousy action caper with discounted Micheal Bay guerilla style filmmaking that has zero flavor or spice. Kinberg gets some mileage out of the formulaic James Bond-inspired globe trotting premise, but the execution and generic, borderline laughable, spits of dialogue fails to use the cast in a way that isn’t artificial.


A veteran of the beleaguered “X-Men” franchise, Kinberg, who wrote the script with Theresa Rebeck, opens his “The 355” by establishing the central MacGuffin of the plot. A device that wields unmitigated power if left unchecked. The type of doomsday device equipped with enough juice to throw off financial markets, rig airplanes to explode, and send the world economy into a tailspin. So of course, the CIA enlists their best and brightest agents’ Mason “Mace” Brown (Jessica Chastain) and her partner (Sebastian Stan) to track it down before a squad of stereotypical foreign oligarchs do.


This leads to a chance encounter with an MI6 German operative named Marie (Diane Kruger) and psychologist Graciela (Penelope Cruz) who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is the sole character unaccustomed to slinging bullets and punches. Rounding out the lineup is Lupita Nyong’o playing cyber intelligence officer Khadijah and Chinese superstar Bingbing Fan’s Lin Mi Sheng who kinda shows up in the last 45-minutes without so much as an introduction. Naturally, the crew set aside obvious differences and international codes of ethics to band together and find the MacGuffin with some predictable double crosses and twists for good measure. Spoiler alert, if a character is ever killed off-screen, chances are, they’re not dead.


There’s a boatload of passive action sequences to help goose the runtime (clocking in a hair over the two hour mark) but there’s no meat on the bones to sustain “The 355” beyond the camaraderie of the ensemble and even then, the fulfillment is scant. Kinberg leaves the door open for a potential return to this universe and the idea of seeing these fine, respectable and kick-ass ladies on screen again is tempting, but it’ll likely get regulated to streaming where it might garner more eyeballs though still serve up the same plate of garb.


Grade: C-


THE 355 is now playing in theaters.