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"The Bricklayer" Review

Coming out around the same time as The Beekeeper it would reasonable to wonder if The Bricklayer was part of a Hollyweird shift to macho action movies with odd job categories as titles, but while the Jason Statham killfest was about an imaginary super secret spy agency, this is about the plain old CIA and their highjinks.

After a former CIA asset, the imaginatively named Victor Radek (Clifton Collins Jr.), who was presumed dead is connected to the murders of three journalists, each of which implying that he will expose CIA shenanigans which will have Major International Ramifications, the Agency drags in his former handler, Steve Vail (Aaron Eckhart), and asks him to go to Greece to bring him in. He refuses, but after a pack of assassins try to unalive him at his bricklaying job, he grumpily catches the flight accompanied by plucky CIA analyst Kate (Nina Dobrev).

 Upon arriving in Greece, he promptly diverges from her plan by meeting his old contact who sets the pair up with a more upscale cover as a shipping tycoon and his wife - when she objects, he tells her, "You're too old to be my girlfriend." (Eckhart is 56, Dobrev is 35) - with a snazzy customized Mercedes. While they try to figure out where Radek is, he's steps ahead in his scheme and whacks another journalist, further raising the stakes.

The plot then becomes another one of those dumb stories where we're supposed to guess who may be a mole, who may be dirty, who's putting one over on who, but the more it tries to twist, the less you care because it ceases to be a puzzle you can try to solve and reduces the viewer to someone waiting for the nonsense to end. (For what it's worth, the missus guessed who the mole would be. I didn't care enough to try.) Screenwriters Hanna Weg (nothing you've heard of) and Matt Johnson (Torque, Tracers, Into the Blue, the last only remembered for Jessica Alba in a bikini most of the movie) are working from a novel which may've sold the twists better, but it doesn't translate.

Director Renny Harlin - to quote Ben Kenobi in Star Wars, "Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time." - was quite the guy in the 1990s with Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and his best, Cliffhanger, but checking his IMDB I see that The Bricklayer is his 14th movie since the last one of his I saw literally 20 years ago, Mindhunters, which I reviewed the DVD of and can only remember that Christian Slater gets killed in a cool (literally) way early on.

So how is he doing after all these years? In a word, workmanlike. The action scenes are OK, but not up to the current John Wick state of the art. The first big fight scene in a rainstorm has some interesting staging, but you have no idea which of the brawlers is Eckhart (or his stuntman) or the attacker because of similar clothing and darkness. Other scenes lack clear geography. 

On the performance side, everyone is fine. When is someone going to cast Eckhart, Thomas Jane, and Jon Cena as brothers? Dobrev is spunky, but in a rejection of the current girlboss women-are-betterer-than-wimpy-men trope, she gets whomped when she tries to fight as she finds training insufficient in the real world and they must not have taught that you don't let opponents get so close if you want to keep your gun.

The Bricklayer is an adequate throwback to the fare they used to churn out regularly in the late-20th Century. It's passable & forgettable, but at least the time spent isn't regrettable.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable/streaming. (Currently on Netflix.)


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