Credit: RFG
by Matt Lynch Featured Film Genre Views

The Misfits | Renny Harlin

June 8, 2021

The risible Misfits marks a career low point for director Renny Harlin. Nick Cannon’s here too.

Once, he was one of the most reliable directors of action in Hollywood, with out-and-out magic like Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight punctuating his resume. But for most of the last couple decades, Finnish director Renny Harlin — according to his IMDb profile, the most successful Finnish director of all time — has been cranking out a series of less and less inspired and more and more cheap-looking detritus overseas. Chinese junk thrillers like Bodies at Rest or the miserable Russian horror vehicle The Dyatlov Pass Incident. A lot of his work seems to be predicated on foreign financing and being a reliable enough gun-for-hire to secure some pre-sales. His latest, a risible heist film called The Misfits, might actually be a career low point.

Nick Cannon plays an alleged master of disguise and the leader of the titular thief club, a motley group of con-artists (also including Jamie Chung, Rami Jaber, and Mike Angelo) who only steal from rich baddies and redistribute the funds to the more deserving. For their latest caper, they recruit master thief Richard Pace (Pierce Brosnan) in order to snatch a few billion in gold bullion from the evil Schultz (Tim Roth), who for some reason stores it in his for-profit, state-of-the-art prison complex in Abu Dhabi while it awaits transfer to some terrorists (also for reasons unclear). Complicating matters is the other member of the crew, Pace’s estranged con-artist daughter Hope (Hermione Corfield).

Harlin keeps the hijinks strictly in direct-to-video Ocean’s knockoff territory, with a bouncy, jazzy score, a lot of wipes and cutaways to jokes, and generally a bunch of shtick nobody would fall for, like Nick Cannon posing as an Arab aristocrat, complete with fake beard and corny accent. Nobody would accuse this movie of being too politically correct, but that wouldn’t be so bad if it were at all funny. Unfortunately, the sense of humor is strictly borscht-belt, with a large section of the movie devoted to everyone in the prison getting food poisoning and their resultant bouts of puking and shitting. It’s also wretchedly paced and atrociously edited, with two, sometimes three scenes in a row bumping up against each other providing the same exact information, or multiple montages of characters just walking around in fancy hotels. Better left unexamined is a desert-set finale stitched together entirely with voice-over explaining what’s happening and justifying a final “twist” that still makes no sense.

The most surprising element of The Misfits is honestly just how much screen time Brosnan actually gets. It’s not unheard of for a star of his caliber to show up for a couple days on one or two sets, collect a check and a quick first-class stay in a nice foreign locale, and be done with it. Most of his screen time is spent reacting wryly to his co-stars’ antics and/or looking cool in the aforementioned hotel lobbies, but he seems actually present on set and having a good time, as opposed to Roth, who appears to be green-screened into a number of his sequences. For his part, Brosnan is also credited as an Executive Producer, along with several Abu Dhabi film funds and a long list of special thanks product-placement credits, which might provide an answer for why this looks more like an advertising travelogue than a heist movie.