Terminal- Vaughn Stein’s implausible but enjoyable neo-noir
UK, Hong Kong, Hungary, USA, Ireland/ 95 mins/ Cert.15
Director: Vaughn Stein
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mike Myers, Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher, Max Irons
Vaughn Stein’s lightweight but enjoyable Terminal, which opened Hull’s 2018 Film Festival, is a preposterous but stylish neo-noir comedy thriller. Featuring an imaginatively assembled ensemble cast whose characters inhabit the shadowy underworld of an anonymous city which is controlled by Mr Franklyn, a mysterious and omniscient criminal mastermind, the performances and the look of the film just about make up for the implausibility of the plot. Margot Robbie is tremendous as Annie, the sassy waitress moonlighting as an assassin who is duplicitously trying to muscle her way into Franklyn’s nefarious activities by pitting two hired killers Vince (Dexter Fletcher) and Alfred (Max Irons) against each other. Simon Pegg is in fine form as Bill, a suicidal, terminally-ill schoolteacher who Annie befriends at the station café where she works, and Mike Myers gives another of his entertaining comic turns as the station janitor.
The set design and cinematography are impressive, and the hyper-real city has a distinctive graphic novel look to it. Seeped in lurid neon and saturated with colour, the film’s imagery is a major success and every frame captures the attention. Terminal also features some snappy dialogue and has its moments of comedy, especially in the relationship between the two assassins which borrows heavily from the Guy Richie gangster vernacular. Similarly, the scenes between Bill and Annie where the waitress attempts to help the schoolteacher choose a suitable method for killing himself has some neat darkly comic touches There are nods to Hitchcock- especially Vertigo- and the plot arc is reminiscent of The Usual Suspects, especially in its portrayal of Franklyn who comes across as a Keyser Söze ubermensch figure. Terminal is well paced, has its tongue firmly in its cheek in a slyly intertextual knowing postmodern manner and is good fun, in a Lewis Carroll meets Quentin Tarantino kind of way. But for all its Chandleresque, pulpy, hard-boiled edginess and visual brilliance, the influences are all derivative and ultimately the film doesn’t bring anything especially original to the genre.