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Momentum (2015)
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by Jay Seaver

"Has momentum, in that it coasts."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The title of "Momentum" is appropriate in a way the people behind the film probably don't intend; momentum, after all, is a measure of the potential energy of an object that is moving but in a passive, unguided fashion - something that generally must be harnessed and redirected. Almost everything in the film itself is momentum of a sort, in motion and capable of being used for interesting purposes but, as it is, just drifting through a bland action movie which isn't going to steer them anyplace new.

It starts out with a robbery of a Cape Town bank's safety deposit boxes, conducted by four people in voice-disguising stealth suits, although when Alex Faraday (Olga Kurylenko) stops one of her partners from killing a hostage, her mask comes off, and she has to go underground. Before she really has a chance, though, her partner and ex-boyfriend Kevin (Colin Moss) attracts even more unwanted attention, as he has stole things a U.S. Senator (Morgan Freeman) does not want getting out. So he sends cleaner "Mr. Washington" (James Purefoy), head of a presidential-themed squad, to take out everyone who might have seen the video, right down to Kevin's wife Penny (Lee-Anne Summers).

I've got two really frustrated notes on the pad that I usually just use to note character names for Momentum, one about how a car chase was terribly choppy and another frustrated at one character dropping another's backstory that we neither need nor, at the point, particularly care about into the middle of a torture scene that was already just overlong and pointless. Who cares? Why work so hard to give a reason for the heroine not being a monster when "I'm not a complete sociopath" will do? It slows what's happening "now" and doesn't really change how the audience looks at Alex afterward. It's useless unless the viewer really likes to see action movies go through the motions.

That is not the only way that Momentum is one of those (likely) VOD-bound action movies that focuses on entirely the wrong things. At their scale and in their market, there's much more word of mouth to be gained from clarity and great staging than anything else, so make those car chases something where you can see relative positions in a shot, pull back a step and hire people who can fight hand-to-hand without extreme close-ups and cuts, and maybe don't be sadistic when killing people without good reason. Weak and obligatory one-lines amid rote banter aren't going to get you noticed, nor is a big Macguffin that you're not actually going to play out.

Leaving the lack of creativity and choppy action aside for the sake of argument - which you really shouldn't do with this sort of movie - it's at least put together nicely. Director Stephen S. Campanelli spent many years as an in-demand camera operator, most notably as Clint Eastwood's "A" guy, and he certainly shows the expected good eye, adding the occasional flourish to the film and setting scenes nicely enough, and while the South African-based production is not elaborate, it never looks like corners have been cut.

Campanelli made a lot of contacts working all those high-profile movies, and it's allowed him and the producers to put together a nice cast, even Morgan Freeman's appearance is the epitome of doing a favor for an afternoon without crossing paths with the bulk of the cast. Olga Kurylenko is quite able to hold things down on her end, looking pretty capable physically and playing well off Colin Moss and Lee-Anne Summers, if a little flat at times. Nothing flat about James Purefoy, though, who chomps through the script, seeming to be having a grand old time. There are some capable-looking action folks around, too, notably Shelley Nicole as "Clinton"; she's not just there so Kurylenko has another woman to match up with.

What's this movie offer other than bulk to a cable-box menu and a paycheck for a couple of B-list actors? I honestly can't think of anything, and as there are things I don't demand from 90-minute units of action, I do want inventiveness, and "Momentum" lacks that to a frustrating extent.

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originally posted: 08/24/15 12:13:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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  16-Oct-2015 (NR)

  20-Nov-2015 (15)

  16-Oct-2015 (MA)

Directed by
  Stephen S. Campanelli

Written by
  Adam Marcus
  Debra Sullivan

  Olga Kurylenko
  James Purefoy
  Morgan Freeman

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