By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Few actors are as accomplished yet underappreciated as the late James Caan. Before passing away last year, Caan cultivated a rich career in the film industry with outstanding performances in The Godfather, Misery, Brian’s Song, The Gambler, and Elf – just to name a few. Bookending this magnificent career for Caan is Fast Charlie, a new crime thriller which serves as Caan’s final performance.
Fast Charlie comes from director Phillip Noyce, who previously helmed Patriot Games, The Bone Collector, and Salt, and is an adaptation of the novel “Gun Monkeys” by Victor Gischler. The film stars Pierce Brosnan as Charlie Swift, a.k.a. ‘Fast Charlie,’ a mob hitman and fixer working for James Caan’s Stan Mullen. The ever-calm, suave, and smooth-talking Charlie finds himself in a spot of bother when the target he was supposed to kill loses his head, making it difficult for Charlie to prove to the person who paid for the hit that he got the right target. Enlisting help from the target’s ex-wife in Marcie (played by Deadpool’s Morena Baccarin), Charlie goes on a perilous journey of violence, revenge, and double-crossing as he goes head-to-head with New Orleans’ most dangerous mob boss.
Conventional yet undeniably entertaining, Fast Charlie is a solid crime drama and thriller. The plot isn’t particularly novel, nor is the film’s blend of humor and violence and its penchant for quick-witted banter between characters. But, despite this, the film takes the audience on an enjoyable journey that never bores. Clocking in at just 90 minutes, director Phillip Noyce crafts a film that never overstays its welcome while capturing a fusion of drama and comedy not dissimilar from the likes of Red or Kingsman. It all makes for light viewing, a movie that doesn’t ask too much of the audience while delivering exactly what’s expected – action and a few laughs.
Leading the way here is Pierce Brosnan, who shows he hasn’t lost an ounce of the charm that made him a fantastic James Bond over 20 years ago. Brosnan takes a page out of Liam Neeson’s book by adopting an accent that unusually fuses his native Irish accent with a rough Southern drawl. It’s certainly not a regionally accurate accent and, instead, will likely elicit a few unintentional chuckles throughout, but, like the rest of Fast Charlie, its charisma allows one to overlook flaws. Brosnan’s Charlie is certainly not John Wick, nor is he Bryan Mills from the Taken films, nor Michael Fassbender from the recently released The Killer. If anything, his character is probably more akin to Ray Donovan or, ironically, an aged James Bond. Speaking of which, Fast Charlie features a great wink to the audience with a delightful 007 easter egg to reference Brosnan’s tenure as the classic character.
Side by side with Brosnan is Morena Baccarin, whose chemistry with Brosnan’s character is one of the film’s best elements. Baccarin plays a taxidermist, who used to be married to the target whose head Brosnan’s colleague accidentally blew off. Brosnan and Baccarin play off one another with a charm straight out of a 90s action comedy. Again, this is nothing particularly novel, but is effective insofar as Fast Charlie is best appreciated as an old-school crime thriller.
But by far the highlight of the film is James Caan. The legendary actor plays Brosnan’s friend and mob boss of over 30 years, now bound to a wheelchair with a declining memory. Caan and Brosnan share such a delightful chemistry and their characters’ relationship is unexpectedly endearing. Seeing an aged Caan still deliver punchy lines here proves yet again that the late actor had an astonishing ability to elevate anything he is in.
There are many movies out there like Fast Charlie, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had with this new crime thriller from director Phillip Noyce. The suave and charismatic Pierce Brosnan throws on a 007-esque suit again and adopts an unintentionally funny Southern-meets-Irish twang while trading plenty of witty blows with his co-star Morena Baccarin. While it may not last long in the memory bank and ultimately makes for pretty pedestrian viewing, if you’re looking for some old school entertainment, look no further than Fast Charlie.